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Life after football: The struggles after playing days come to an end

By Ben Estes, Daily Sports Editor
Published October 29, 2012

The past five years have seen many applications turned in, but nothing substantial has come of them.

This time, though, Floyd feels like he’s made for the assistant director for alumni engagement position that is now open.

From talking to his former teammates, he says that some ex-Wolverines feel “used” by the program since they feel unwelcome to come back.

Floyd points to one incident to illustrate this sentiment. At the 2003 home game against Ohio State, he, former safety Eric Mays and former running back Chris Howard were watching on the sidelines despite not having tickets. They were eventually escorted off the field by police, while former quarterback Drew Henson and Yankees star shortstop Derek Jeter — also ticketless but a constant target of ABC’s cameras — remained on the field for the whole game.

Having experienced frustrations like this, Floyd feels he’s the perfect person to help reach out to fellow alumni.

“I don’t feel like there’s anybody (more) qualified,” Floyd says.

He became aware of the open position during a visit to Ann Arbor in March; by April, he decided to leave the job he had in Washington, D.C. working for the Department of Defense, fully confident he would land this one in the Athletic Department.

Floyd went to Ann Arbor to go through the interview process but he had no income, so he picked up the security work at the Blue Lep. In the daytime, he also worked for the Ann Arbor Parks and Recreations department, doing field maintenance for the city’s parks.

By early June, Floyd’s resolve hadn’t weakened.

“I think that the job is mine, it’s only a matter of time before I get the call to start,” Floyd said then. “But until that happens, I have to keep grinding it out every day for the city of Ann Arbor, and that’s what I’m doing.”

He hadn’t considered the possibility that he wouldn’t be hired.

“I’m telling you, I don’t even think that way. I’m so positive that this is going to work out. I just don’t see it not working out.”

***

Not every former Division-I football player struggles to find his way once his playing days conclude. But Floyd isn’t alone, either.

Marcus Ray, a safety at Michigan from 1994-98, is forever immortalized in Wolverine lore for his vicious hit on Ohio State wide receiver David Boston in the 1997 edition of the rivalry game, which was captured by Sports Illustrated and used as the magazine’s cover the week after the game.

Many Michigan fans no doubt saved that cover, a reminder of the glorious year that was 1997.

Those fans never saw the “life depression” that Ray fell in to when his short-lived NFL career came to an end after a groin injury in 2001. They didn’t see how Ray struggled through a doomed marriage, how the former defensive back ballooned by more than 100 pounds and how he went through the motions as a high school coach and graduate assistant at Michigan and Central Michigan for the next 10 years.

He compared his high-school coaching experience to that of a drug addict — the few hours he got of it a day were a high, but the rest of his life was the painful come-down.

“I think my outside appearance was a reflection of what was going on with Marcus Ray on the inside,” he says. “I didn’t like myself anymore. I didn’t know how to like myself without athletics or without being in shape.

“I didn’t have anything to hang my hat on, so I spent a lot of time in my own mind, living in 1997, because that’s where I felt comfortable. That was the last real taste of success that I experienced.”

Sam Sword, a classmate of Ray’s, is the third all-time leading tackler in Michigan history, with 265 stops. But he, too, emerged from his brief NFL career in 2002 unsure of himself, and was behind his peers who had already worked professionally for several years.

Sword, too, gave coaching a try, but found it wasn’t for him; by then, he was 30 years old and even further behind. A job working as a recreation supervisor for the city of Palm Coast in Florida wasn’t the answer either.

Both Ray and Sword eventually did find their paths.