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A game-changer for Athens

86 days ago
SEC Staff
Photo: SEC Staff

How do you sum up what Derrick Floyd has meant to Athens during the past 30-plus years?

"It's truly difficult to measure what he does mean to our program and to the young people in this community," said Jim Newland, Sr., a Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens board member for more than 50 years.

Floyd, the former Georgia men's basketball guard, worked at the Athens YMCA for about five years before joining the Boys & Girls Clubs of Athens. "Big D" - pretty much everyone calls him that -even remembers his start date at the Boys & Girls Club: April 1, 1989.

Yep, April Fools Day, but Floyd's impact on the thousands of Athens children that have passed through the Boys & Girls Clubs' doors is no joke. It's safe to say that few have done more for Athens' youth, especially African-American children, over the past 30 years than "Big D" has.

"He has total admiration and respect from the members, the young people, but also all the people who have been on the board that entire time," Newland said.

Newland remembers watching Floyd play for the Bulldogs, starting back when the talented player from Miami wasa freshman in 1979. Newland, a 1966 Georgia graduate that was in the banking business in Athens for more than three decades, used to sit courtside while keeping statistics at Georgia games back then.

Floyd played alongside Bulldog legends like Dominique Wilkins and Vern Fleming, Terry Fair and James Banks. He was one of the three co-captains forthe Bulldogs during that 1982-83 season, which culminated in a magical winter and spring that ended at the Final Four in Albuquerque, N.M. - beating No. 3-seed St. John's and No., 8-seed North Carolina (and guys named Jordan, Perkins and Daugherty) along the way.

There's a great photo in Georgia's media guide showing that team on the tarmac at the Albuquerque airport. Coach Hugh Durham and Floyd are holding the Final Four trophy, which seems fitting. Floyd, a reserve who battled knee injuries in his career, did probably his best work off the court. He was a leader in the locker room, a supportive teammate, a vital component that stats can't measure during the best season in the program's history.

With his playing career done, Floyd continued working toward his marketing degree. He got a part-time job, working two days a week at the YMCA, helping out with the preschool program in the morning. He had no idea that he'd found his calling.

"It was a job ... and I ended up falling in love with it," Floyd said.

There was a day, he said, when "it just hit me like a ton of bricks that I might have an impact on kids' lives." It was 1984, he said, and a mother had shown up at the YMCA asking to meet him. Her son had raved about Floyd so much that she felt she had to meet this man, and as the adults talked the son came running up and jumped in his arms, Floyd said.

"I'm holding her son and she's standing next to me," Floyd recalled. "He's saying, 'Momma, momma, you're meeting Coach Derrick! This is Coach Derrick!' She's looking at him and how he's excited, and ... when they left, that's when I knew.

"The father, Floyd said, came to meet him the next day.

"I think that was it. Not long after that, I started being there pretty much every day, to the point where I actually left school and just went to work every day," Floyd said. "I eventually went back to get my degree.

"His time at the YMCA, "was a game-changer for me," Floyd said. It also was a game-changer for thousands of children and families in Athens.

A few years ago, Carla Williams, then Georgia's Deputy Director of Athletics and Senior Woman Administrator and now Virginia's Director of Athletics, said what she "really, really" loves about Floyd, whom she'd known for about 30 years, was that "it's never about him. It's always about whoever it is he's talking to. That's a unique quality."

"He genuinely loves and cares for every single kid that comes through that door," Newland said.

To see Floyd in the Boys & Girls Club facility on Fourth Street is to see a man in his element. There he is tying a young girl's shoe, there he is "refereeing" a game of four square. There he is interacting with anyone and everyone, responding to every call of "Big D" that can be heard.

As the director of operations for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Athens, Floyd's job involves a lot of planning and meetings and paperwork. But he said that once school lets out and the children are around, he does everything he can to be available to them.

"I try my best to do what I have to do either before the kids get there or after they leave," he said. "I'm a believer, even though I'm an administrator, that my impact has to be in the room where the kids are. If they're looking for me, that's one second too long for them to get the answer they probably want and need.

"If I'm someplace in the program area, I get a chance to solve something or give them comfort before they go another route. If I'm in my office and it looks like I'm working, it might discourage a kid, even though my door is never closed."

When Floyd isn't at a Boys & Girls Club event or visiting a school or a local family, you might find him taking photos for the Athens Banner-Herald's Spotted section or serving as an undergraduate advisor for the Omega Psi Phi fraternity at Georgia.

He's also frequently busy working at just about every home Georgia football and men's and women's basketball game. Since 1995, he's been the official scorer at basketball games and he also works the SEC men's basketball tournament. In the fall, he's on the sideline at Sanford Stadium working with the officials' replay crew.

In 2015, Floyd was the recipient of the UGA Athletic Association's Bill Powell Service Award, which is presented for outstanding service to the UGA AA by non-full-time employees. In 2008, Floyd was one of four recipients of then-UGA President Michael Adams' Fulfilling the Dream Award for community service.

Most days, he said, he's at work around 9 a.m. and finally home at 11 at night.Where does all that energy come from? The kids, he said. It also came from his mother, who provided him with both a strong spiritual foundation and a belief in the value of serving others.

"I played three sports all the way through high school: basketball, baseball and football. And she never missed an event," he said. "From six years old to high school, playing all those sports and going to all those things, she never missed a time.

"It's embedded in me to try my best not to miss the opportunity to let a kid know that we value them."