As Michael Floyd hoisted the Sun Bowl MVP trophy on New Year's Eve in snowy El Paso, his teammates chanted "One more year!" at the star receiver who'd just torched Miami's semi-pro secondary for two touchdowns.
They'll get it.
Floyd announced on Wednesday that he'll return for his senior year, dead set on earning his degree, getting Notre Dame back into the BCS and proving he's better than his NFL Advisory Committee feedback that had the 6-3, 227-pound athlete as a potential third round pick.
"This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life," Floyd said. "On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I'll have for the rest of my life. On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level and that is something I look forward to doing at some point. However, I'm pleased to say I will be returning to the University of Notre Dame for my senior season in 2011.
"I'm returning to Notre Dame for three reasons: to earn my degree, return Notre Dame to the top and improve myself as a player. First, I promised my mom I would graduate from Notre Dame and I am 40 credit hours shy of attaining that goal. I chose to attend Notre Dame in part because I knew it was a 40-year decision and not a four-year decision. Graduating from Notre Dame will help me for the rest of my life. Second, I want to get Notre Dame back to a BCS game. I believe we are very close to returning the Irish to where we belong and I want to be part of something great. Lastly, I want to show everyone in the country that I'm the best wide receiver in college football in 2011. There are many things I need to improve, but I feel with the coaching I have at Notre Dame, I can become the best at my position in this game."
Floyd has tallied 171 career catches for 2,539 yards with 28 touchdowns. Only Jeff Samardzija (179) has recorded more receptions than Floyd. Only Golden Tate (2,707) and Samardzija (2,593) have totaled more career receiving yards than Floyd.
In other words, Floyd could be Notre Dame's most prolific receiver of all time by the end of next season's opener against South Florida.
"I know Michael put a great deal of thought in determining whether he should enter the NFL this year and I truly appreciate and respect him for realizing the gravity of his decision," said Brian Kelly in a statement. "Whether Michael went to the NFL this year or next year would not have changed my opinion that he will have a long and successful career at the next level. I would have supported Michael's decision either way, but obviously I am thrilled he will be part of our team in 2011.
"As I have said many times, I have never had a player work as hard as Michael. That work ethic and passion for football proved to be contagious in our locker room and it was not a coincidence that he represented the offense as a gameday captain more than any other player this year. I'm happy Michael feels it is in his best interests to return to Notre Dame to continue his education and I look forward to the expanded leadership role he'll have with the team this year."
The impact of Floyd's return cannot be overstated relative to what the Irish have left behind at the wide receiver position next season. Floyd finished the year with 79 catches, nearly double that of Theo Riddick (40) and nearly quadruple that of TJ Jones (23). While four-star prospects George Atkinson and DaVaris Daniels are set to enroll next summer, it's hard to imagine either bringing a skill set comparable to Floyd.
"Hopefully he stays so I can pick up some pointers from (Floyd)," Atkinson said last week at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.
Now Atkinson and the rest of Notre Dame's younger receivers can watch and learn.
Those lessons might be tough for opposing defensive backs to pick up.