Forlorn gray clouds still were lingering above Sam Boyd Stadium from the previous two days’ rains late Thursday morning. With UNLV’s final football game in the quaint 49-year-old structure on the outskirts of town set for Saturday, a melancholy mood was set.
It seemed like the right time for Todd Floyd to show his true colors.
It wasn’t easy.
Standing at midfield, Floyd balanced a blue McQueen High School jersey on his left arm, a red UNLV one on his right. A black-and-red XFL football was placed in his hands for a photo. The ball was deflated. Like the gloomy weather, it seemed appropriate.
Todd Floyd played football on three levels at Sam Boyd: high school, college and pros, with the Las Vegas Outlaws of the short-lived XFL. He might be the only one who has done that.
Floyd left behind a veritable Petri dish of DNA on the playing field upon which he was standing.
Blood, sweat, tears.
And whatever you call the stuff that oozes from one’s elbows after repeatedly being tackled on artificial turf that refuses to forgive.
Flood of memories
“A lot of emotion, starting back from high school,” the Reno native and former wide receiver said about memories flooding back like torrents of rain water through the The Linq parking garage. “We won two state championships (at Sam Boyd), came down here and had a lot of success.
“And then playing for UNLV and the city of Las Vegas — like a lot of teams in the past, we didn’t win a ton of games. But it was exciting just to come out here and play in every game. When you cap it with the XFL experience, there’s just a lot of emotion and great memories.”
So many that Floyd never left Las Vegas after following Jeff Horton, his former coach at UNR, to UNLV. Neither (along with Floyd’s pal to this day Jason Toohey, who also transferred) departed with the blessing of Chris Ault, the Hall of Fame coach and Wolf Pack athletic director at the time.
Ault’s reluctance to release Floyd from his scholarship might have seemed justified after he caught 11 passes against UNR his senior year.
Floyd, 45, is a real estate developer now. He and wife Tiffany are trying to start a family. He said it was sad to realize that after Saturday and next month’s Las Vegas Bowl, additional football memories would not be made on the emerald swath of real estate upon which he was standing — memories he will share with his little ones when the time comes.
“When we got to play here I think it was called the Silver Bowl,” said Floyd, a quarterback in high school who led McQueen’s Lancers to state championship victories over Chaparral and Western before Bishop Gorman started taking football seriously. “It was really exciting; it was a college stadium. It is in a unique location — there’s some great views of the mountains in back.”
He said you won’t be able to smell the sage after a desert rain at Allegiant Stadium on the Strip, the new $1.8 billion football palace the Rebels will share with the NFL’s Raiders beginning in 2020.
“It’s a view they are going to lose with the new stadium, although they’re going to replace it with the Strip, which is going to be a lot more exciting and appealing. I completely get that,” said Floyd, who also played in NFL Europe and for multiple NFL practice squads. “But this is a unique place, and for me, it was really an exciting place to play.”
Paydirt vs. Wisconsin
Although the thrill of playing for the Rebels was tempered by the agony of almost never-ending defeat, lining up against Wisconsin in front of sellout crowd of 40,091 all dressed in red — “a lot of it was Wisconsin fans,” Floyd recalled — still makes the little hairs on the back of his neck stand up.
The Badgers had Ron Dayne, the All-American running back, and Todd said the Rebels played them tough for a while. Wisconsin ultimately won 52-17. Floyd scored both UNLV touchdowns, one on a Hail Mary pass from Jon Denton that made ESPN’s plays of the day.
Denton said Floyd was the kind of guy a quarterback could rely on even when it wasn’t the last play of a half or game.
“Mr. Reliable,” said the former Green Valley High quarterback who set 10 national passing records as a UNLV freshman. “When we needed 10 (yards), he got 11. We had our favorite route — it wasn’t the Hail Mary. It was the quick sprint out pass that you couldn’t defend with his height.”
The 6-foot-4-inch Floyd pointed to the Sam Boyd end zone at the open end of the field where two Wisconsin defenders collided and he came down with the ball.
“But the most exciting, electric night I’ve ever had out here was the opening night of the XFL,” he said. “I think (14) million tuned in because (league founder) Vince McMahon had done such a great job of marketing and creating big expectations.”
After the Outlaws received the opening kickoff against the New York/New Jersey Hitmen, Todd Floyd and the starting offense paused to introduce themselves to a national TV audience at a sold-out Sam Boyd Stadium that had never been so raucous.
“I got to tell New York ‘Welcome to the city that really never sleeps,’” he said.
Who: UNLV vs. San Jose State
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium
TV: AT&T SportsNet
Radio: KWWN (1100 AM, 100.9 FM)
Line: San Jose State -7; total 65