1 Is William Floyd the next 49er superstar?
Last Saturday, at the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers' sweltering training camp in Rocklin, Calif., wideouts Jerry Rice and John Taylor, tight end Brent Jones and the new star on the block, fullback William (Bar None) Floyd, were finishing every play from scrimmage with a 40-yard sprint. And the day before, Rice, the nine-time All Pro, had detected a flaw in one of his pass routes, whereupon he sought out the team's new offensive coordinator, Marc Trestman, to ask, "How do you think I can run that route better?" This is called staying on top, something the Niners are very good at.
They are also very good at replenishing talent. Out goes Joe Montana, in comes Steve Young. Out goes Freddie Solomon, in comes Rice. Out goes Tom Rathman, in comes Floyd, the effervescent bundle of talent from Florida State who was stolen by San Francisco with the 28th pick of the first round of the 1994 draft. Floyd has emerged as crucial to the 49ers' hopes of winning a sixth Lombardi Trophy.
The Niners lost only one offensive player to free agency during the off-season, but that loss was significant. Running back Ricky Watters took his big talent and his big mouth to the Philadelphia Eagles, and it will be up to Floyd to make up the bulk of Watters's 1994 harvest of 1,596 total yards and 11 touchdowns. And there's good reason to believe he can do it.
In just one season the 6'1", 231-pound Floyd established himself as the best blocking fullback in the NFL: He rocked Pro Bowl linebacker Seth Joyner of the Arizona Cardinals in the preseason opener and steamrollered anyone who got in his way the rest of the year. Floyd also rushed for 305 yards on 87 carries, most of them short-yardage plays. Now that will change. Young estimates that Floyd will get 200 or more carries in 1995 when he is not clearing a path for the other runners.
Young thinks that Floyd is capable of doing nearly everything that Watters did for the 49ers last season. "Where we'll miss Ricky," Young adds, "is on the long passes."
The Niners will not miss Watters's tirades about the way in which he was being used. Floyd, in contrast, is a team player, though he does have some Florida State cockiness in him. After Floyd boasted of his ability and then his agent, Roosevelt Barnes, called him "the best fullback in football, bar none" before last year's training camp, the 49ers dubbed Floyd Bar None. Floyd took that zinger and zinged right back by calling tackle Harris Barton, who is Jewish, Bar Mitzvah.
But Floyd is serious about his game. "I've watched great big backs like Earl Campbell, Larry Csonka and Franco Harris," he says, "and I like to take a little something from them into my game. Twenty years from now, I want kids to be saying, 'William Floyd was the best fullback ever.' "
Floyd may never knock Jim Brown off that perch, but he is easily the best fullback to have entered the league in the 1990s, and that's good enough for San Francisco fans. Floyd led all 78 Niners in autograph-signing after both of last Saturday's practices, going 25 minutes in the morning and 20 in the afternoon. When he finally excused himself from the throng to grab a shower, one fan yelled after him, "Thanks, Floyd! Who needs Ricky!"
Floyd turned back to the assemblage, blew three kisses and said, "I love you." For the 49ers, a different kind of star is born.