Vikings first-round pick Floyd has survival instinct

  • Article by: DAN WIEDERER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 21, 2013 - 9:07 AM

With sheer resolve, Vikings No. 1 draft choice Sharrif Floyd has steered clear of trouble to make it to the NFL.

The first tattoos, Sharrif Floyd says, came in 2007, when he was a sophomore at George Washington High School in Philadelphia. ¶ Teenage impulse as much as anything sent him to a classmate’s home, where the star defensive tackle had part of his name — “Rif” — inscribed down his left forearm and “Tonya,” his mother’s name, down the right. ¶ Once that canvas — now 6-feet-3 and 303 pounds — was splattered, Floyd couldn’t stop. With obvious pride, the Vikings rookie rolls through the 13 tattoos he has added since.

Up both arms, across his shoulders, sprawled across his torso.

They are enduring reminders that life is written in permanent ink with no eraser for the lessons, struggles or successes of the past.

Floyd nods at how cool the dagger on his left arm looks. And those words near his clavicle — “Life” on his right side, “Death” on the left — are a tribute to his Gemini roots. “Always two sides to everything,” he says.

Floyd stops longest at the scroll etched onto his right shoulder. This is his favorite.

“You may see the glory but you don’t know the story.”

Floyd’s current glory will come into focus when he reports to training camp in Mankato this week, eager to begin establishing himself as one of the NFL’s most disruptive defensive forces.

The explosive tackle was the Vikings’ top pick in April, drafted 23rd overall. He will soon finalize a four-year contract that should have a value north of $8 million.

Floyd recently bought a new Jaguar and is settling into a 6,500-square-foot home on a lake in St. Louis Park.

You see that glory.

But what about his story?

How many times should Floyd’s journey have detoured, seemingly always at risk of becoming a tragic tale of unfulfilled promise?

Floyd was 6 when his mother, Tonya Scott, lost custody, her life swallowed by the demons of drug addiction, depriving her of any consistent influence in his upbringing.

Throughout his childhood, Floyd lived in both Frankford, Pa., and in the rougher quarters of North Philadelphia, where poverty, violence and drugs reigned. Temptations loomed around every corner for kids left vulnerable by their anger and desperation.

“A hundred doors, a hundred traps,” Floyd says.

Adds Mike Wallace, a Floyd confidant: “Unfortunately that fast life envelops so many kids. Because they see that fast money. Nobody wants to take the time to go to school and develop as a person. Why would you want to do that when you see guys rolling around your neighborhood in BMWs and Benzes?”

All the while, despite the constant discipline, encouragement and unconditional love Sharrif received from his grandmother, Lucille Ryans, his upbringing also was overseen by Anthony Floyd, the man listed on his birth certificate as his father.

Who would have thought to question otherwise?

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  • Sharrif Floyd

  • Sharrif Floyd was surrounded by friends and family at the NFL draft in April at Radio City Music Hall in New York: from left, Andre Odom, Greg Garrett and grandmother Lucille Ryans.

  • Legal guardian Kevin Lahn, middle, and high school strength coach Greg Garrett, left, are two of the people in whom Floyd confides.

  • Floyd was a first-team All-Southeastern Conference selection as a Florida junior in 2012.

  • Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd (73) stops South Carolina running back Mike Davis (28) for a 3-yard loss on a run play in the third quarter at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida, on Saturday, Ocotber 20, 2012. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT) ORG XMIT: 1130298

  • Floyd loosened up his big frame at the Vikings’ rookie minicamp. He was drafted as a possible successor to defensive tackle Kevin Williams.

  • NFL draft prospects Sharrif Floyd, left, of Florida, and Xavier Rhodes, of Florida State, visit the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange Wednesday, April 24, 2013. Sharrif holds the gavel he used to close the day's trading. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

  • The newest Vikings, from left, Sharrif Floyd, left, Xavier Rhodes, center, and Cordarrelle Patterson, were introduced to the media at Winter Park in Eden Prairie, MN, Friday, March 26, 2013. (ELIZABETH FLORES/STAR TRIBUNE) ELIZABETH FLORES • eflores@startribune.com

  • Floyd, the first of the Vikings’ three first-round draft picks, posed with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

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