His Twitter notifications came in huge numbers, just like Ricky Floyd’s yards.
Floyd, a junior running back at Benilde-St. Margaret’s, ran for 459 yards and seven touchdowns two weeks ago at St. Louis Park. Shock, awe and congratulations were conveyed by Minnesota prep football followers, some who had never heard of Floyd before that evening.
Though no overnight success, Floyd found notoriety comes fast when you fall just 6 yards short of breaking the state’s decade-old record for rushing yards in a game.
Around school the next week, Floyd flashed his shy smile as classmates called him “459.” To teammates, he was “Player of the Week.” Becoming the next-big-thing in high school football tested his unassuming persona.
“He’s very bashful and not a real gregarious human being,” Red Knights co-head coach Jon Hanks said. “But he is sure of himself.”
Like their offensive dynamo, the Red Knights (3-3) are young, at times erratic, but capable of big things. They play host to Spring Lake Park (6-0) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
“If we can block and get a crease for him, I hope he will be running all over the place,” Hanks said. “Because that will make it an interesting game.”
Floyd, whom Hanks considers the program’s “fastest and most elusive kid” in many years, has altered the behaviors of both Red Knight fans and teammates. When the offense comes on the field, the unit has the undivided attention of parents and students. They wait to see what Floyd, who averages 8.8 yards per carry, will do next.
He has run for at least 220 yards in three different games this season. An explosive scoring play — Floyd has scored 10 touchdowns covering 50 or more yards — gets a different reaction on the Red Knights’ bench.
“Our defensive coaches go bananas because they don’t like seeing him going 60 yards,” Hanks said, half-joking. “That means we have to go back and play defense without a chance to talk to the kids.”
As a sophomore, Floyd showed glimpses of his potential. He returned a kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown against DeLaSalle. The play, Floyd said, gave him confidence. A six-carry, 126-yard playoff performance against St. Anthony solidified the idea he belonged.
Floyd, who is 5-10, added 20 pounds since last season and weighs 170.
“I always go down to Florida every summer to see my dad,” Floyd said. “My grandma cooks a lot of food and she feeds me, like 24/7.”
Floyd’s speed — he has been clocked at 4.34 seconds in the 40-yard dash — remained.
“Once I got on the field I actually felt faster,” he said.
The 459-yard performance earned attention. But Floyd felt his best game came against Cooper. He accounted for 346 total yards and three touchdowns as the underdog Red Knights hung tough in a 34-27 loss.
“I told him before the Cooper game to keep picking at the iceberg,” senior center Jameer Anderson said. “I said, ‘When things look hard, push harder.’ ”
The most frustrating game this season, for the offensive line and Floyd alike, came one week after crushing St. Louis Park. Despite a solid week of practice, Benilde-St. Margaret’s was humbled 41-0 at Park Center. Floyd ran 20 times for 24 yards.
“How we are feeling in a game reflects on Ricky,” Anderson said. “If we’re not confident in our blocks, Ricky doesn’t run hard to the line of scrimmage because there are too many bodies.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable running,” Floyd said. “That game wasn’t who we are, so I hope against Spring Lake Park we show the kind of team we are.”