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Air Force safety Kyle Floyd looks the part as he prepares to replace Weston Steelhammer

March 6, 2017 Updated: March 6, 2017 at 7:55 pm
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Air Force defensive back Kyle Floyd runs through a drill during spring practice Thursday, March 2, 2017, at Air Force Academy. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

Kyle Floyd grew up sandwiched between three older siblings and two younger ones.

True to birth-order convention, he was the quiet child who wanted to keep everyone happy.

"I was just kind of lost in the middle," the strong safety said. "So it's kind of funny, now everybody comes to me and I'm the mediator."

Why introduce Floyd first by talking about his place in a Roy, Jr., and Jane Floyd's large family? Because there was no bigger factor in bringing Kyle to Air Force, and perhaps no defensive player will play a bigger factor in the Falcons' success in 2017.

Floyd, who will be a junior next year, will be asked to take over the position vacated by Weston Steelhammer - one of the most celebrated defensive backs in team history. He'll "quarterback" the defense at its most mentally challenging position, according to defensive coordinator Steve Russ.

And on top of that, Floyd will step into Jalen Robinette's role as being the Falcons player who has the look of a big-time Division I player at 6-foot-2 and a chiseled 212 pounds.

None of this likely would have been the case had Floyd not been born fourth out of six kids in his family.

When he started weighing college options, Floyd cared little about playing football. As that middle child who doesn't want to be a burden, he sought an academic scholarship to ensure his parents wouldn't have to pay for his education. Some football schools came calling with football offers, most notably Cornell and North Texas. But when Air Force came along and explained that he wouldn't pay for school - and instead would actually be paid as a cadet - and he would graduate into a guaranteed job, he quickly signed on.

"I wasn't that passionate about football," Floyd said. "Being here, that's changed. It's been a full 180."

Air Force's coaching and training staff directed Floyd in the ways of nutrition and working out, and his body quickly transformed. He has added nearly 20 pounds of muscle since he entered the academy directly out of high school in the summer of 2015.

"I learned how to take care of my body," he said. "Now it's like, 'Wow, it's a whole new world.'"

The key for Floyd will be adjusting to the mental demands of his safety position, particularly in a year in which the team lost its entire defensive backfield - all four starters as well as Hayes Linn and Tyler Weaver, who between them backed up all four positions.

"Physically you love what he brings to the table," Russ said. "But I don't think an athlete can show his God-given gifts if he's thinking too much. He's got to be able to feel good about that. That's what spring's about and fall's about. We've got him drinking out of a fire hose, trying to get as much into him as possible.

"We're only going to be as good schematically as (the safeties) are, because a lot of it falls on them and there is still a lot of growth that has to be made."

As a freshman Floyd played the "spur" linebacker position, which is a hybrid outside linebacker/defensive back spot. He moved to safety in the spring of 2016 when he swapped positions with Shaquille Vereen - who also now projects as a starter.

"It was overwhelming last year, for sure," Floyd said. "This year it's just refining technique. ... We're all trying to get this playbook down, especially at the safety position. You can't really do it alone. It's mental reps, talking to each other about what we did wrong, getting together and making sure we've got everything."

The lasting sign of Floyd's background of being lost with three brothers and two sisters is his barely-audible voice and laid back demeanor. But he says that changes when necessary and he "flips the switch" into a big-hitting safety.

"I'm kind of quiet. I'm not the hype, rah-rah kind of guy," Floyd said. "But they all know I have their back."

The back end of Air Force's defense is counting on it.

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