In many ways, the 2012 season has been a tough one for the members of the South Mecklenburg High football team. Entering their Friday, Oct. 19, game against Super 7 No. 1 Butler, the Sabres have a 1-8 overall record and are the only Southwestern 4A conference team without a league victory (0-5).
But as the team makes its transition under a new coaching regime and offensive philosophy, senior offensive lineman Brandon Floyd has played a vital role in helping the Sabres maintain a positive outlook during the challenging times.
That’s something Floyd’s been doing for more than a decade now.
When Floyd was 5 years old, his father, Sammie, was experiencing heart problems. Sammie eventually received a new donor heart, but his body rejected it. Soon, his condition deteriorated to the point that doctors had to put him on life support. After a while, and with his condition not improving, the elder Floyd was taken off life support. Suddenly, Brandon was left without a father.
“It was hard on Brandon, and it was very hard on me,” said Shirley Floyd, Brandon’s mother. “As a mother, I had to do whatever I needed to do to keep him on the field and out of trouble.
“Brandon loves football, and he needs football. He’s been playing since middle school, and he’s always taken an interest in it. I think it helps him, and his goal is to play football in college and maybe go pro one day like his brothers have done.”
Rosario “Torrey” Hailey was a standout at Providence High and later at N.C. A&T State University before playing for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Lamont Floyd starred at South Meck before graduating in 2006 and played four years at Wingate.
Floyd said his brothers have always looked out for him, and he attributes much of his athletic and individual success as a maturing adult to their influences.
“I didn’t have a male figure in the house growing up,” Floyd said. “But I did have my older brothers to look up to. Football definitely helps me out and kind of takes me away from everything. My brothers have been there and have been great role models. They have taught me things that dads should teach their sons.”
While his brothers have been role models and provided him with athletic motivation, Floyd’s mom has been responsible for most everything else.
“She is his biggest fan,” first-year Sabres coach Rocky White said. “You only get one mom, and his mom goes to really special lengths to make sure that he’s taken care of and that he has the things that he needs to be successful. It makes (their relationship) really special. She’s his biggest fan. There’s no doubt about that.
“It’s the kids that don’t have that relationship in their families that really realize just how fortunate he is, because I know Brandon thinks every day about how special his mom is to him.”
Floyd said he knows his mom has sacrificed a lot for him and his brothers to ensure their success and he’s grateful beyond words for what she continues to do to help him succeed.
“My mom is out here every game and has always been there for me,” Floyd said. “It is great when I can look up there and see my mom in the stands because it’s like I have someone who’s always there to support me. It’s the greatest feeling.”
Floyd said his mom helped push him into sports but he was not always destined to be a standout.
“At first, I didn’t understand the rules (of football) and was honestly scared on the field,” Floyd said about his Pop Warner days. “I wasn’t that big and not good, but I knew my brothers loved football and I wanted to do it for them and be better than they were.”
Despite his family’s support system, Floyd still thinks about his dad often. He sometimes wonders how it would be different if Sammie were still around watching him mature into a man.
“It was hard sometimes growing up,” Floyd said. “There are times when I wish (my dad) was there, especially with my brothers grown and away at college. But the good thing is I have my mom to lean on. And when I get (on the football field), I feel at home and at ease.”
Floyd said he wants to play in college and that his recruitment has increased as the season has progressed, despite the Sabres’ struggles. He generated his first offer from East Carolina during his junior season but has since picked up invitations from the Charlotte 49ers, Appalachian State, Western Carolina, Old Dominion and S.C. State.
“I love the atmosphere at App State, but I haven’t made a decision yet,” Floyd said. “They are the frontrunners right now. I’ve been hearing from a lot of schools recently, so I’m going to wait and make sure I do what’s best for my family.”
Shirley said she has always wanted her youngest son to excel in the classroom first, but she’s OK that he’s also a star on the gridiron. Floyd has had two other role models who feel the same way.
“(His brothers) have always pushed him,” Shirley said. “They bought him weights and have always steered him toward football. They have made sure that he’s always in shape, but, most important, they’ve wanted Brandon to keep his grades up – that has always been No. 1. They have always wanted the best for him and have been supportive of Brandon.
“I pray that he does well on the field, but I want him to be more than a football player. I want him to get good grades and be a good person, too.”
White said Floyd’s character has shone through on the team this season. Having to deal with the death of his father at such a young age, the coach said, likely has helped Floyd keep things in perspective as the Sabres endure their struggles this season. Either way, White said the qualities Floyd best displays have become a model of what White is looking for from his team as its closes out the season and builds for the future.
“It’s cool that Brandon is able to take his situation and make a positive out of it,” White said. “A lot of people would use what he has gone through and find reasons to get into trouble or to do something stupid. But not Brandon. He takes it and tries to build on what he is and make himself a better person.”
And despite battling injuries early this season, White said Floyd has consistently worked hard and been a strong performer on the field.
“I think he’s played very well,” White said. “I know it’s been difficult for the seniors, in particular. Brandon came in and, from Day 1, was one of the guys who totally bought into what we are trying to do. I can’t ask for more from him.”
Shirley said that as bad as it was to lose her husband, she’s thankful for her son, who she calls “her gift from God.”
“I’m not bragging,” she said. “But Brandon is a really good kid. With all of the things that he’s (gone) through, he still has a really good attitude and he keeps it up, no matter what he’s doing.
“I’m used to it. That’s just Brandon.”