There are few people, in any profession, that make a lasting, meaningful impact on your life.
Friends come and go, teachers have their place and even influential leaders speak out of turn on some occasions, erasing previous opinions you formed about their ideals.
In an era filled with followers held back by excuses, Chris Floyd’s the exception — an essential piece of a Fairmont community that’s been stagnant for several decades since thriving as a tobacco giant during the 1950s and 60s.
Since the early 2000s, Floyd’s been a staple at local athletic events — the perceived bloodline for success in Fairmont. Prep sports heroes are lauded, but often never leave the area after graduating, a mix of poor classroom performance and little guidance once the school day’s over.
Floyd’s never concerned himself with the ugly truth off the court.
That’s the beauty of Floyd — he holds enough school spirit for everyone and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the local scene.
Just don’t take his clipboard.
“Once you tell Chris something, he won’t forget it,” Fairmont basketball coach Michael Baker said. “I asked to borrow his clipboard before a game a few years ago and he made sure I gave it back to him. I drew up a play (for him) after the game and he still refers to that play to this day.
“Every school has someone with special needs and Chris is our guy. Every coach here appreciates him and loves him like a player.”
Born with calcium spots on his brain, neurologists predicted a grim outlook for Floyd. Although it’s left him developmentally delayed with a severe curvature of the spine, his condition hasn’t rocked his spirit 34 years later.
“One doctor told us he wouldn’t live six months,” said Joy Floyd, Chris’ mother, who revealed he wasn’t able to crawl until he was 3. “His daddy (Foy Floyd) and I wouldn’t believe it. He’s our heart.”
Floyd, a 1998 graduate, has attended almost all Fairmont home playoff games over the last 15 years and has help getting to and from events.
“I know his mother drops him off at the bottom of the hill and picks him up before it gets too late,” Baker said. “He’s dedicated to Fairmont athletics.”
Floyd was visibly upset after the basketball team’s sectional final loss to Kinston last week. In his trademark blue jeans and blazer, Floyd was easy to spot behind Fairmont’s bench, barking out calls as Baker’s honorary assistant.
He wished there was something he could do against Kinston’s taller, more athletic front line.
Even Roy Williams, who was seated near the exit, would’ve struggled with a game plan.
“The turnovers really hurt us,” Floyd said. “But our players were trying their best. I was just happy to get a photo with coach Williams and his assistant (Steve) Robinson.”
Pseudo interviews are Floyd’s favorite, an opportunity at breaking down what transpired with local media as he offers up his opinion on what worked and what didn’t. His welcoming hand is always stretched if he knows you — a glimmer of friendship.
“Sometimes, he’ll worry you to death, but it’s never intentional,” Baker said. “He looks forward to gameday and loves the interaction.”
Floyd doesn’t have a smooth jumper or a fastball approaching 90, but offers much more. He’s taught others the importance of optimism and compassion, two things we could all use more of in our daily lives.
He’s never uttered a complaint or lashed out at an opposing player. He rarely whines about officials or questions a coach’s call.
Floyd’s just there, supporting his alma-mater and politely saying hello to everyone coming through the gates sporting the Black and Gold.
“You’ll never meet someone who’s more real than Chris,” former area player of the year Ryan Gibson told me after he tossed a complete-game shutout as a senior in 2010. “He’s always here with a smile on his face pumping up the team. He loves Fairmont.”
Give him a hug next time you see him and delve deeper into his world, a possible angel walking among us.
You’ll be glad you did.
Reach Brad Crawford at 910-272-6111 or on Twitter @MrPalmettoSDS.