NFL prospect Sharrif Floyd adopted by family that gave him benefits

Posted: February 18, 2013

For those who think NCAA rules on amateurism are outdated and hypocritical, Sharrif Floyd could be a folk hero.

Floyd found a most interesting way around some of those rules. When the George Washington High graduate went off to play football at Florida, he didn't have anyone in his life who could afford to help him out financially within the rules.

At first, that got Floyd in trouble with the NCAA. Then he was adopted, at age 20.

NCAA rules were broken that forced Floyd to sit out two games in 2011. That part of his story goes back to George Washington, when several local men began an organization they called the SAM Foundation, for student-athlete mentoring. The design, according to the foundation, was to pay trip expenses for local athletes who otherwise couldn't afford them.

"All we try to do is provide a service to kids from the inner city who, because of their situations, aren't afforded the opportunities that a lot of kids from affluent families are," the foundation's president, Steve Gordon, a former South Jersey high school coach, said in a 2011 interview. "You've got a kid like Sharrif Floyd who doesn't have two nickels to rub together."

There were several problems: The treasurer of the organization - the man writing the checks - Kevin Lahn of Kennett Square, was a University of South Carolina booster. His work - paying funds through the organization - was not allowed under NCAA rules, and got the Gamecocks on probation after a player who took money from the foundation went to South Carolina.

The foundation seemed to have no working knowledge of NCAA rules, no awareness about such terms as "extra benefits" for athletes.

Florida was not sanctioned because nobody involved with the foundation had any ties with the Gators, but Floyd was forced to sit out two games and pay $2,700 to charity, essentially repaying money he had received from the foundation. The NCAA determined that Floyd had used the money for living expenses, transportation, and other expenditures, and also had received impermissible benefits prior to enrollment, including transportation and lodging related to unofficial college visits.

In his mind, Floyd said, he didn't even need those visits set up by the foundation. He had become an all-American high school player. But the college visits helped other players get noticed, he said. There was nothing but good will involved.

As part of the NCAA sanctions, Floyd said, "they also said - which nobody knows - that me and Kevin couldn't talk anymore. We couldn't have any type of relationship. Obviously, we didn't like that."

In an e-mail, Lahn, the vice president of a commercial real estate company based in Kennett Square, declined to be interviewed for this story, saying, "Sharrif should be the story and not me. I would prefer to stay out of the article if I could and let Sharrif have the spotlight."

In November, USA Today broke the news that Lahn and his wife had adopted Floyd in 2011. Floyd was 20 at the time. Now it was legal for Lahn to lease Floyd an apartment and a 2012 Ford Explorer XLT, as USA Today reported.

"My wife and I love Sharrif and he feels the same way about us," Lahn told USA Today.

Florida's compliance office approved of the arrangement and the NCAA didn't get involved.

There's nothing untoward going on, Floyd said.

"I know he's there as a father figure to me," Floyd said of Lahn. "Now I know he's there if I need any advice. He's not dumb. He's actually really, really smart. When I've got something I have to make a decision on or is bothering me, I talk to him about it. I know I'm going to get great advice. Our relationship - it was bigger than just a mentor. We were close. We enjoyed being around each other, just having fun. . . . We talked and talked and talked."

Maneuvering the relationship through NCAA rules is part of Floyd's past. He's a certain pro, with a good chance to be drafted in the first round.

When asked where home is for him now, Floyd's answer was consistent with how he talked about his life, how home was more about trust than geography.

"Kennett Square, Pennsylvania," he said, referring to the home where he has a bedroom when he comes to town.

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