A fter a night with friends, Derrick Floyd walked into Walmart late at night. He doesn’t drink or smoke but had the smell on his clothes. A young girl, who he mentored at the YMCA, spotted “Big D” and came in for a huge hug. Against her working mothers’ directions, the young girl stayed talking to Floyd but stared at him with a grossed out look thanks to the stench that clung to him.
Choked up, Floyd said, “She changed my life forever. That look of disappointment… I never want to disappoint a kid like I did.”
Floyd is a native of Miami raised by a single mother with four siblings, but basketball and academics brought him to Athens in 1979, and he’s never left. Floyd is now Director of Operations at the Athens Boys and Girls Club, giving back to the Athens community as a mentor to many kids.
One of the biggest recruits in the country, Floyd received offers from multiple schools. Thanks to an appreciation for academics from the Georgia basketball staff and a connection with other recruits, Floyd knew he wanted to be a Bulldog.
“When I came to Athens,” Floyd said. “I had the opportunity to sit in an interview with the dean of the business school because I was focused on accounting and marketing. When my mom saw that, she knew that Georgia valued my academic success just as much or even more than my athletic value. Plus, Dominique [Wilkins] and Terry Fair were coming in with me, so it turned into a no-brainer of where I wanted to be.”
Come 1982, Floyd was named captain of the greatest Georgia basketball team in its extended history. Led by Floyd, the 1982-83 Hoop Dawgs made a Final Four run, beating North Carolina with Michael Jordan on the way.
“The tournament was during our spring break,” Floyd said. “So we went around the locker room and said, ‘we just missed our spring break, we can’t afford to miss that and lose.’ Then, going into the UNC game, their forward Sam Perkins made that statement about not even knowing which conference we were in. So, we had all the motivation and were ready to show them we’re from the SEC. We got to the game, took the lead, and we were never going to give it back.”
The 1983 run cemented Floyd’s name forever in Georgia lore. The ‘83 team was honored at halftime of a basketball game this past season to mark the 40-year anniversary of the historic run. Guys like Vern Fleming, Terry Fair and James Banks stepped forward, but Floyd’s name was called and a roar unlike any other took over Stegeman Coliseum. Not only for his contributions on the hardwood 40 years prior, but a dedication to the Athens community since then earned Floyd the loudest cheer.
Wrapping up college, Floyd began working at the YMCA and a new found career would begin for the Miamian turned Athenian.
One day at the YMCA, a mother walked up and asked for Derrick Floyd. He said this is he, and the mother said, “My son has begged that I come meet ‘Big D,’ so thank you for working with him and being a mentor to him.” The next day, the kid’s father came in and asked the same question, Floyd said I am “Big D,” and the father said, “My son has begged that I come meet you and thank you for all you do.” Floyd watched the kid leave with his father, yelling, “You and mom finally met Big D!”
Humbled by the experience, Floyd said, “I realized that I can make more of this in my life. I realized this can be my life. To have a kid go home and talk about me meant for the short time I’m with him, I can impact his life. I decided this is what I want to do.”
In addition to his work with the Boys and Girls Club, Floyd helps with the Georgia basketball and football programs. On the sidelines at every Georgia game, Floyd works with the officials on the replay crew and is the official scorer of Georgia basketball games. His connections with the programs has opened doors for the Boys and Girls Club to come to games and interact with players and coaches.
“I get to take kids to the facilities and they see my face in the Coliseum,” Floyd said. “I point out to them that that’s me, and their faces light up. They’re like there’s no way that’s you ‘Big D.’ I tell them it really is, but this university has given me a platform and has always been so great to include these kids.”
For the great work, unending service and support, and mentorship to so many youth in the Athens Area, Floyd was recently awarded the Service to Youth Award by the Boys and Girls Club of America. 35 years with the Athens Boys and Girls Club, but actions that have withstood the test of time for so many, impacting and changing young men and women’s lives.
At a Boys and Girls Club ceremony, Floyd sat near the front to take pictures for the organization’s social media. Little did he know, he was the one who would be recognized. As told by Jim Newland, a 56-year board member and three-time Board Chair of the Boys and Girls Club, “Derrick had no idea, and I walked on stage to announce his recognition and we were both so emotional. It was just as hard for me to present as it was for Derrick to receive.” As told by Derrick, “I was a walking bucket. I didn’t know until Jim got to the stage that I was being recognized, and I turned into a mess with tears coming down my face.”
Though the award presentation was an emotional frenzy, the recognition is well-deserved for Floyd. “We, the board of the Boys and Girls Club, had a stroke of luck when we hired him,” said Newland. “The minute he walked through the door, our organization was changed for the better. He plays the role of the gentle giant. He can walk in a room, and the kids get quiet because he has their respect thanks to his genuine concern for their well-being. For the kids he’s been everything: a mentor, a surrogate parent, a guiding influence to all.”
The gentle giant known as “Big D” is a Damn Good Dawg but an even better person. When he ran into that little girl at Walmart, he realized that her mother had to take her to work that night because she couldn’t leave her home alone. Floyd said, “For the few hours I get to spend with these kids after school, I get a chance to do something that not a lot of people can do. I get to impact a young person’s life, but it’s not just for those few hours they’re impacted, it’s an impact they can take back home.”
A special man that can not be described in a few words or an article, but a story of an Athens staple that needs to be told. The humility of never seeking credit but always being on duty to better these kids’ lives. Hopefully, this gives you a taste of one of the greatest role models in the Classic City. Thank you, Derrick for this interview, and everything you do for this community!