- Pat Yasinskas, ESPN Staff Writer
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BRADENTON, Fla. -- On a sun-splashed Florida afternoon, Sharrif Floyd sat and chatted about where he’s been and where he’s going. It’s a remarkable story, one that should fill Floyd with a sense of accomplishment.
But that’s not the case.
“Someone told me recently to look in the mirror and reflect on everything," Floyd said. “But I’m not ready yet. It’s not time to reflect."
The time is coming, and Floyd knows it. The University of Florida defensive tackle is expected to be a first-round pick in April’s NFL draft, and that means he’ll get a contract worth millions of dollars. It’s so close that Floyd can see it, but he doesn’t want to jinx anything. He said he’s treating this week’s scouting combine as a way to seal his future.
If he does what he’s supposed to do in Indianapolis over the coming days, he’ll hear his name called in the first round in April. Only then will he pause to reflect.
Only then will he stop to think about how far he’s come from his early life in North Philadelphia. Sitting on the posh campus of IMG Academy, where he spent the past six weeks getting ready for the combine, was about as far from North Philadelphia as Floyd could get.
“I grew up in a bad neighborhood," Floyd said. “I didn’t have much coming up. My father was in and out of jail. Going to elementary school, I wore the same pair of clothes every day and I was picked on all the time. I wanted to drop out of elementary school."
Aside from sports, nothing came easy. Things weren’t easy on the home front.
“I think it’s fair to say I was abused growing up," Floyd said. “Pretty much every day or every other day. Extension cords, belts, broomsticks, bamboo sticks, whatever."
Floyd said that came from the man he grew up thinking was his father, but there’s another cruel twist involved.
“I found out when I was 16 that he wasn’t my real father," Floyd said. “Once I found that out, I moved out. Bounced around and stayed with my grandmother, stayed with my guidance counselor and stayed with some of the other football players. I got it together, hung in there, and I’ve gotten to where I need to be."
Floyd didn’t want to name the man he thought was his father and said he’s put distance on that period of his life.
“I don’t wake up thinking about it," Floyd said. “But I do use it to remind myself to just work hard, because that’s how I got out of a bad situation and I want to stay in a good situation. Once I got into football, I got a lot of good guidance and support."
The best advice of all might have come from Floyd’s middle school basketball coach, Michael Edwards, who told him his future might be in football. Floyd didn’t start playing football until the eighth grade. But once he started, he didn’t stop.
At George Washington High School, Floyd became one of the biggest recruits in Philadelphia history. Still, life wasn’t easy. Floyd was chosen for the U.S. Army All-American Combine in 2009, but he couldn’t afford the cost of the travel to San Antonio. Other students at his high school made brownies and sold them to make sure Floyd could go.
Floyd landed a scholarship to Florida and immediately earned a starting job. He moved to defensive end as a sophomore and back to defensive tackle last season. Floyd decided to pass up his final season at Florida to enter the draft.
That appears to be a smart move, because most draft experts and scouts rank Floyd as one of the top two or three defensive tackles in the draft. Most projections have him going in the middle of the first round. Coincidentally, the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, who both have major needs at defensive tackle, are sitting right in the middle of the first round.
“Sharrif is a guy that has all the tools," said IMG Academy director of football operations Chris Weinke, a former NFL quarterback. “He’s going to be a guy that can go in and cause some havoc early on. His quickness for a big man is unmatched. The combination of power and speed with that guy really separates himself at that position. I see him being a real force in the NFL."
Maybe he’ll be a force with the Panthers. Or maybe the Saints. Or maybe with some other NFL team.
It doesn’t matter to Floyd. He said he doesn’t have a particular dream scenario of what team he would like to go to. He just wants to be a first-round pick.
“Right now, I’m still grinding and focused on my goals," Floyd said. “Once this next goal is accomplished, you’ll probably see a little bit of excitement and a little bit of tears out of me, and I’ll reflect on where I came from. But I’m not there yet."