A drizzly Tuesday afternoon has driven two University of Houston teams into Hofheinz Pavilion to train. Cougar football players are running laps on a concrete walkway that rings the basketball arena. Stanley Floyd, a Houston junior, is up there, too, with his track teammates, waiting for the last lumbering lineman to finish and clear out. As several burly players thump past, Floyd reads their splits off an imaginary stopwatch. "Mon-day, Tues-day, Wednes-day!" he calls out, as if these are tenths. Everyone laughs. Floyd likes that. "Jan-u-ary, Feb-ru-ary, March!" he yells.
"You coming out for the team next year?" one of the football players shouts over to Floyd. Surprisingly, the player's tone isn't threatening but hopeful. Floyd, perhaps the fastest man in the world, could be devastating for the Cougars as a wide receiver or kick returner. He certainly could withstand the rigors of Southwest Conference ball; he's 5'9¾" and a thickly muscled 168 pounds. And he has outstanding leaping ability and is dexterous enough to type 60 words per minute. But what Floyd wants to play is pro football—that's where the money is—after winning the 100-meter dash at the 1984 Olympics. "Give me security first," says Floyd. "Treat me like Herschel [Walker]. He gets my publicity at track meets. Give me his $1 million insurance policy. Then I'll go out there for you. I'll go out there, point down to this leg and say, 'Break it!' " He laughs.
Finally the walkway is empty, and Floyd glides through a series of 60-yard sprints, preparing for an indoor meet four days hence in Cleveland. There, in the 55-meter dash, he will establish his third world indoor record (6.10) of 1982. "I've run several world records right here in practice," he says. "I've been timed in 5.5 for the 60 in here." Floyd is serious in making this claim. A 5.5 60 would be more than half a second better than his world record of 6.04. A conservative conversion of that time would compute out to an 8.2 100-yard dash. "Well," says Floyd, "I do feel I'm the greatest indoor sprinter ever to come along." Now, he's deadly serious.
As well he should be. Floyd won all but one of his seven indoor races this winter and now holds the world indoor mark for 50 yards (5.22), as well as for 60 yards (6.09) and 55 meters (6.10). The only indoor sprint records he hasn't broken are the 50-and 60-meter marks held, respectively, by USC's James Sanford (5.61) and the semiretired Houston McTear (6.54). Floyd's outdoor credentials are impressive, too. He was ranked first in the world at 100 meters in 1980, when he set a world junior record of 10.07, and he was rated fifth last year, with a best of 10.10, despite persistent hamstring injuries. Floyd is the early favorite to win the NCAA 100 title at Provo, Utah in June, and as the outdoor season gets into full swing this weekend, he'll begin working toward regaining the world's No. 1 ranking from his Houston teammate, Carl Lewis. "What I envision for Stanley won't happen until late May or June, when he peaks," says Cougar Sprint Coach Clyde Duncan. And what Duncan envisions "are some pretty big things."
It would appear that the outwardly ebullient Floyd has life by the tail. He's engaged to marry Delisa Walton, a halfmiler for the University of Tennessee, on June 26, and he's doing all right—a 2.9 average—in his studies toward a degree in communications. "I'm thinking TV," he says. "On radio, people don't see you. That's not me." He starts waving his arms wildly. "Cameras! Lights! Action! Fade in! Right here!"
And though Floyd's family isn't well off, he drives around Houston in his own Mercedes 240D diesel (license plate: FLOYD 1) and has an impressively furnished two-bedroom apartment all to himself. "Curious, isn't it?" he asks a visitor, with a smile. Floyd seems excessively conscious of money and material objects; this he denies—and denies and denies. He contends that except for his dozens of warmup suits and pairs of track shoes—his usual attire for everything from classes to semiformal dinners—none of his very apparent affluence has come through the broadly acknowledged system of under-the-table payments to world-class runners. Floyd says that his three older brothers—Louis, 28, manager of the West Building Supply Company in Albany, Ga.; Walter, 26, a technician at the Albany Procter & Gamble plant; Karl, 23, a mental health caseworker in Houston—have provided him with his luxuries. "They look at me like a pro football player," he says. "I'm at the top of my field, and they think I should live that way. They say, if the press won't build you up, we will."
There is, you see, disaffection beneath Floyd's ever-present grin. "You can go around with a smile on your face and nobody ever knows what's within," he says. Bitterness lingers in him from an unpleasant year he spent attending—and departing from—Auburn, and he feels he hasn't received enough favorable attention. "I'm the most underpublicized sprinter there is," he says.
Floyd is more content at Houston than he was at Auburn, yet he tends to stay in his apartment, watching TV, talking on the phone to his fiancée in Knoxville for several hours each night, listening to jazz and lifting weights in his spare bedroom. His closest friends are brother Karl and several cousins, all of whom live within a few miles of Houston's main campus. And though sprinting is Floyd's primary interest, he says, "I'll be honest with you. Meeting Delisa is the only true happiness I've ever gotten out of track and field."
Floyd grew up with his three brothers, his sister, Jennifer, now 19, and his mother, Rosa, a cook, in the tiny (pop. 750) southwest Georgia town of Putney. He was raised, he says, in "a neighborhood of relatives"; his grandparents and four families of aunts, uncles and cousins all lived on a 135-acre plot owned by Stanley's grandfather. Stanley's father, James, a career Marine, moved away when Stanley was a young child; he's bitter about that, too. "But my mother raised—I mean reared—us proper," he says. "It wasn't elegance but we ate well. All my brothers went to college, and none of us was a hoodlum." Here Floyd goes into a Richard Nixon imitation: "I am not a crook."
Floyd's playmates were, almost exclusively, brothers and cousins. "We were all brothers, really," says cousin Kelvin Terry, 21, who shares an apartment in Houston with Karl. The boys in this extended family were always together playing games or hunting rabbit and squirrel or racing on foot or motorbike around the quarter-mile dirt oval on the Floyd property. Stanley could keep up only for short distances in races with his older brothers, all of whom became outstanding high school milers or half-milers. He was also the sissy, the quitter of the group. "They said I had sugar in my gas tank," he says.