Notre Dame receiver Michael Floyd, the school's all-time leader in touchdown receptions, will return for his senior season, the school announced Wednesday.
A week after classmate Kyle Rudolph (tight end) declared his eligibility for the NFL draft, Floyd met with Irish coach Brian Kelly the past two days and made a somewhat surprising decision to stay.
"This was one of the toughest decisions I have ever had to make in my life," Floyd said in a statement. "On the one hand, there was Notre Dame. This place has been an incredible home to me and the relationships I built here are ones I know I'll have for the rest of my life.
"On the other hand, there was the NFL. It has always been a lifelong goal to play football at the highest level, and that is something I look forward to doing at some point. However, I'm pleased to say I will be returning to the University of Notre Dame for my senior season in 2011."
His pleasure is undoubtedly shared by Kelly and Irish fans around the country. Floyd said the importance of graduating and the hope of playing in a BCS game helped sway him. Perhaps the reality that most draft experts didn't peg him as a first-round pick was additional motivation.
"Lastly, I want to show everyone in the country that I'm the best wide receiver in college football in 2011," he said. "There are many things I need to improve, but I feel with the coaching I have at Notre Dame, I can become the best at my position in this game."
Floyd has caught 171 passes for 2,539 yards and 28 touchdowns despite missing 13 games the past three seasons because of injuries. He has averaged 14.8 yards per catch and nearly 85 yards per game.
The St. Paul, Minn., native had 79 receptions -- second only to Golden Tate (93 in 2009) -- for 1,025 yards and 12 touchdowns this season, including two in a convincing win over Miami in the Hyundai Sun Bowl last month. The outcome completed a four-game winning streak for the Fighting Irish (8-5) to close the season.
Floyd surpassed Rhema McKnight's 170 career receptions and is second all-time at Notre Dame behind Jeff Samardzija (179). His 5.7 catches and 84.6 yards per game are both Irish career records and he is third in total yards. Floyd's 28 TDs also topped Samardzija for the top spot.
"I know Michael put a great deal of thought in determining whether he should enter the NFL this year and I truly appreciate and respect him for realizing the gravity of his decision," Kelly said. "... I would have supported Michael's decision either way, but obviously I am thrilled he will be part of our team in 2011."
Wes Morgan covers Notre Dame football for ESPNChicago.com.