TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Michael Floyd calls Larry Fitzgerald his mentor. Both are from the Minneapolis area, and Fitzgerald dearly wanted Floyd as a teammate.
The wish was granted on Thursday night when the Arizona Cardinals made Floyd the 13th player selected in the NFL draft, a choice that gives the team a big, talented player expected to be the No. 2 wide receiver behind Fitzgerald. With Fitzgerald at 6-foot-3 and the newcomer from Notre Dame maybe a half-inch shorter, it’s potentially a formidable tandem.
“I think there’s clearly been a connection between Larry and Michael,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. ” … Larry must have saw some similarities in terms of Mike’s work ethic and love for the game that Larry has, so certainly it’s not a mistake that those guys have connected.”
The Cardinals have a need on the offensive line, but general manager Rod Graves said that when it came time for their pick, the only question was whether to select Floyd or accept a trade offer to move down.
“When we were on the clock we received calls with offers to move back,” Graves said, “but Michael Floyd was the highest rated player on our board at that time and we just didn’t feel like the offers that were made to us were of equivalent value or better.”
Floyd left Notre Dame with seven school records, including career receptions (271), yards receiving (3,686) and touchdown catches (37).
“The first thing is that he attacks the football,” Kelly said. “If the ball is in the air, he is going to get his hands on it. He’s just got a great ability to track it and aggressively go get the football.”
Floyd, like most rookies, needs to work on “his precision, the things that Larry Fitzgerald already has.”
Floyd returned for his senior season at South Bend after being suspended following his on-campus arrest for driving under the influence a year ago. He was reinstated after meeting conditions set by the university and the coach. The Cardinals say they investigated that issue fully, both in interviews with Floyd and in research done at the university.
“One of the things that struck me about him was his honesty,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We asked him some pretty tough questions about his past and he was very honest. I think that we emphasized the importance to him about some of our players and how important they are to our community and what type of role models they are and how important it was for us that he would have to fit that mold.”
Floyd said that when the Cardinals asked him about it, “I just basically told them it was a bad decision.”
“I learned from it and moved on,” he said. “I can’t be like every other college student, just doing what a college student does, because the spotlight is on me. They wanted to see if I had improvements since that time, and I have. I’ve moved on.”
He visited the Cardinals at their Tempe headquarters.
“It was a good place to be,” Floyd said. “The coaches wanted me there. They just wanted to see how I was being a man and how I could be a better person down there and learn.”
Whisenhunt said it was important to note that, while Floyd could have come out in last year’s supplemental draft, he chose to return to college for his senior season, earning his degree in sociology.
Kelly said Floyd “made some great choices” in the wake of his trouble.
“Now you’ve got a young man that’s been through some adversity,” Kelly said, “has handled it, has been humbled because of it and the best is in front of him now.”
Floyd said he has known Fitzgerald since high school.
“It’s exciting just knowing that he’s on the opposite side of me, one of the best receivers in the game,” Floyd said. “It’s a learning experience for me to know that when I get down there I’ll be able to learn from one of the best.”
Not that Fitzgerald made the pick.
“Larry is not as involved with the (drafting) process as a lot of people like to think that he is,” Whisenhunt joked.
“But I think Larry certainly likes him,” Whisenhunt said, “that Larry is going to take him under his wing, that it’s going to be important to Larry that this young man does well.”
Floyd was the second receiver drafted, behind Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon, selected fifth overall by Jacksonville. As a senior, Floyd caught 100 passes for 1,147 yards and nine touchdowns. He also was considered perhaps the best blocker among wide receivers in the draft.
Whisenhunt described Floyd as “physical, fast, big, can make some of those back-shoulder catches in red zone plays.”
The coach said Floyd will have to earn his spot in competition with returning receivers Andre Roberts and Early Doucet. But make no mistake about it, he intends to start, and that’s what the Cardinals expect, too, even if they wouldn’t say so publicly.
“I’m going to keep working hard,” Floyd said. “That’s been my art, that’s in my head, that I’m a workaholic. I’m going to work hard to get in that position.”
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