Rookies eager to reunite when Vikings meet Ravens

The Vikings defensive lineman and Ravens free safety are best buddies from their days at Florida.

 

Sharrif Floyd carries quite a poker face when he talks to the media.

The Vikings rookie defensive tackle rarely shows emotion, but Floyd cracked a smile when asked about a certain Baltimore rookie — perhaps brother would be a better term.

Nobody on the Ravens’ roster carries the same last name as Floyd, but it’ll be a University of Florida affair on Sunday when Floyd reunites with safety Matt Elam.

“We’re still looking at each other as Gators — family forever,” Floyd said.

The two first-round rookies didn’t trash-talk this week. Heck, even though they’re constantly in touch, Floyd said he wasn’t going to talk to Elam until after the game.

Both will get a chance to make an impact Sunday as well. Floyd is on the field for about 25-30 plays on defense and also has a role on special teams. Elam moved into the starting free safety position after the Ravens cut Michael Huff.

“He has really limited the mistakes as of late,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said of Elam. “He’s in much better position, but he plays fast. He’s a good tackler and really flies around.”

The Floyd-Elam friendship began at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in 2010 when they were regarded as the best players in the country at their positions.

“He was a great guy, humble guy,” Elam said. “He understood that God blessed him, and it was just surprising how humble he was and how calm, collected and always under control he was.”

Elam, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., nearly went to Florida State before choosing the Gators. He said Floyd, from Philadelphia, was one of the reasons he picked Florida, knowing an elite defensive tackle prospect is a safety’s best friend.

Floyd was one of the main reasons why Elam stayed at Florida, along with some other teammates in the 2010 recruiting class ranked second in the country by Rivals. Elam said there were thoughts about transferring because of a lack of playing time and coach Urban Meyer’s brief retirement after an 8-5 season, but Floyd’s encouragement uplifted the entire group.

“You’re a freshman in college and you’re not playing when you’re used to being the man in high school,” Elam said. “You’re upset. You’re not getting the playing time you wanted, but he kept us positive. He said things like, ‘In the next year or two, we’re going to be all right. This is going to be our team, and we’re going to take over.’ ”

Elam and Floyd both bypassed their senior seasons at Florida to declare for the NFL draft after impressive junior seasons. They started every game en route to an 11-2 season and a Sugar Bowl berth. During their down time, Floyd said the two hung out daily and played basketball together on campus.

Less than a year removed, Floyd said he thinks about his time at Florida often and what the program was able to accomplish during his time.

“We did something that nobody thought we could do,” Floyd said. “We did it with each other, and we did it for each other.”

Elam plans to swap jerseys with Floyd after the game and wants to see him do well — in a Ravens victory. Those days in the Swamp are in the rearview mirror, but Floyd is in a similar position to three years ago as a freshman at Florida where he played in a limited role on defense. He reverts back to the same message he shared to Elam and the rest of his teammates.

“You’re not the man; your seniors put in work, your juniors put in work and you put in work,” Floyd said. “You build up to that junior and senior year and go from there.

“I still understand the concept. But junior year just might come faster than expected.”

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