WR Floyd has strong showing; Bears interest high?

By Eric Hansen, The Sports Xchange
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- It was 2009 all over again, maybe even better for Notre Dame wide receiver Michael Floyd.

His decision to enlist former Irish star and current Carolina Panthers backup quarterback Jimmy Clausen Tuesday at the on-campus Pro Day did nothing but enhance the climb the 6-foot-3, 225-pound St. Paul, Minn., product has been making since he walked off the field in Orlando, Fla., Dec. 29 with a rib injury and a murky future.

Three months and a week after his college season ended with a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Florida State, Floyd looked every bit the part of the top 10 pick most analysts now project ND's all-time leading receiver as in the three-day, seven-round draft to be held April 26-28 in New York. NFLDraftScout.com ranks Floyd as the No. 2 overall receiver in the draft behind Justin Blackmon of Oklahoma State.

Floyd, in fact, plans to be in New York to wait out the process and has picked out a custom-tailored gray suit for his eventual stroll to the podium.

The Chicago Bears seem quite interested, though they'd have to trade up from their current No. 19 spot in the order most likely. Team officials took both Floyd and Irish safety Harrison Smith out to dinner Monday night. And the Bears' Lovie Smith was one of two head coaches who took in the proceedings at ND's Loftus Center on Tuesday.

In all, 27 of the 32 NFL teams were represented, including two general managers. Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis also got a look at Floyd and eight other Notre Dame draft hopefuls.

The two Irish players who likely helped themselves the most Tuesday were workout partners, outside linebacker Darius Fleming and cornerback Robert Blanton. NFLDraftScout.com projects both players could come off the board in the middle rounds.

The others who worked out in varying degrees for the NFL personnel types Tuesday were cornerback Gary Gray, offensive tackle Taylor Dever, offensive guard Trevor Robinson, kicker David Ruffer, and running back Jonas Gray -- roughly four months removed from reconstructive knee surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament.

The 6-2, 247-pound Fleming, who some teams like as an inside linebacker, lowered his time in the 40-yard dash from 4.74 at the NFL Combine in late February to 4.54 on Tuesday. Blanton, projected as a safety by many teams, went from 4.7 at the combine to 4.53.

But Floyd, who rested on his combine numbers for the most part (he ran the 60-yard shuttle, three-cone drill and pro agility drill), certainly didn't hurt himself.

And it all started with a phone call to Clausen, his quarterback at ND in 2008 and 2009. The two connected for the first 16 of Floyd's eventual school-record 37 touchdown receptions.

"It's just the chemistry between us," Floyd said. "We're really good friends. He knows me, and I know him. and it's just a great relationship. He got the opportunity to make his dream come true of being in the NFL, and I just wanted his help to get me there."

Floyd has had to do a lot of work on his own, though, following a March 2011 drunk driving arrest that almost truncated his ND career and tainted his pro stock for months.

But Floyd, who had two prior alcohol-related brushes with the law, separated himself from his past last fall. He caught a school-record 100 passes in 2011 and racked up a 3.4 grade-point average in his final semester in the classroom. He'll walk with this graduating class in May.

"My mom is very happy, just knowing that she doesn't have to live paycheck to paycheck anymore," Floyd said of Theresa Romero, who works at Macy's at the Mall of America. "I could help with a lot of things with the family if they need help.

"But she's more proud of my personally that I did graduate. The whole family's coming down for that."

Clausen, who left ND a year early but came back to finish his own degree work during last year's NFL Lockout, predicts nothing but success for his old sidekick.

If Floyd indeed is plucked in the first round in roughly three weeks, he'll be the first Irish receiver to be a first-rounder since Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown in the 1999 draft.

Floyd and Clausen two started working out together in California two weeks ago, but Clausen had to run the idea of going back to ND's Pro Day through a lot of channels, including that of the Panthers' brass, before making it a reality.

The end result was there was just one incompletion between them on Tuesday and plenty of superlatives to keep teams salivating.

"I think he's going to be great in the league," offered Clausen, a second-round draft choice of Carolina in 2010 and currently a backup to former Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton. "He's one of the hardest-working guys I've seen. To have that work ethic and those skills, he's going to fit in real well."

Here are the pertinent numbers from the nine NFL Draft hopefuls who participated in Tuesday's ND Pro Day at the Loftus Center. Not every player participated in every drill:

--Cornerback/safety Robert Blanton: 4.53/4.56 in the 40-yard dash.

--Offensive tackle Taylor Dever: 27.5 inches in the vertical jump, 8-feet-9 in the standing broad jump, 19 reps at 225 in the bench press, 5.38/5.34 in the 40, 4.71 in the pro agility drill.

--Outside linebacker Darius Fleming: 4.58/4.54 in the 40,11.58 in the 60-yard shuttle.

--Wide receiver Michael Floyd: 4.23/4.37 in the pro agility drill, 7.13/7.11 in the three-cone drill, 11.66 in the 60-yard shuttle.

--Cornerback Gary Gray: 28.5 inches in the vertical leap, 9-feet-3 in the standing broad jump, 17 reps at 225 in the bench press, 4.75/4.70 in the 40, 4.28 in the pro agility drill, 7.22 in the three-cone drill, 11.77 in the 60-yard shuttle.

--Running back Jonas Gray: 22 reps at 225 in the bench press.

--Offensive guard Trevor Robinson: 30 inches in the vertical leap, 8 feet-9 in the standing broad jump, 31 reps at 225 in the bench press, 5.24/5.22 in the 40, 4.76 in the pro agility drill, 7.93 in the three-cone drill.

--Kicker David Ruffer: 13-of-15 on field goals.

--Safety Harrison Smith: 11.52 in the 60-yard shuttle.

Copyright (C) 2012 The Sports Xchange. All Rights Reserved.

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