BLACKSBURG — Virginia Tech safety Reggie Floyd thought he would get one more year playing alongside Mook Reynolds and Adonis Alexander.

The talented core in the secondary helped Virginia Tech’s 2017 defense finish fourth in scoring (14.8 points) and 13th in total defense (319.3 yards per game allowed).

By the time fall camp rolled around last season, Floyd was all by himself with coaches counting on him to be one of the lone veteran voices in the locker room.

“I felt like I didn’t really get to finish my time with them because some were kicked off and some went early into the league,” Floyd said, at the ACC Kickoff. “I felt like my responsibility was put on me quicker than I expected, but I was excited to take on that role.”

Floyd knew there would be some bumps in the road for Tech’s inexperienced defense, but things got downright ugly with embarrassing losses to Georgia Tech and Pittsburgh. Floyd, who had gone through a winless season at Stonewall Jackson High School as a senior, didn’t let the team’s struggles impact his attitude.

“Of course, I didn’t like losing,” Floyd said. “There wasn’t just a low point where I was down on myself and had nothing to say. It was always something positive. I had to speak to my guys.”

Floyd finished his second year in the starting lineup with 88 tackles, 9.5 for a loss, and a pair of interceptions, but his role behind the scenes was far more important for a young Hokies defense struggling to maintain its confidence.

“Just every time we saw them in the team meeting, ‘hey, what’s up? How are you feeling? What’s going on? What’s going through your head?’ Just making sure everything is good with them,” Floyd said. “As long as they are good, I feel like that’s the best way to start things by building up everything for the young guys.”

The coaching staff pushed Floyd to be increasingly vocal as the season went on.

“He’s done a good job with it,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. ‘At the times that I’ve or his position coaches wanted more from him, he’s been opening to listening to that and how to go about it and continue to learn how to do it.”

Floyd, who is one of two seniors on the defense, hopes his continued leadership pays off in 2019 with Virginia Tech bringing back all but three starters (defensive tackle Ricky Walker, defensive back Bryce Watts and defensive end Houshun Gaines).

“He’s got credibility with the players because he’s played well. He is about Virginia Tech and about Virginia Tech football,” Fuente said. “He does have obviously some talent and he’s a good worker...he embraces the grind of trying to improve and kids like that. It’s been fun for me to watch him go into that role maybe be thrust into that role before he wanted to be in that role and now embrace it.”

Floyd embraced the role at the ACC Kickoff where he had Virginia Tech’s patented lunch pail with him everywhere he went from an informal dinner reception on the first night to a whirlwind day of interviews, photo ops and press conference.

“This isn’t something that’s just for the football team,” Floyd said. “Everyone in Blacksburg or in Roanoke or Christiansburg, they know about the ‘Lunch Pail D’ and the lunch pail and the meaning of it.”

Floyd would love to carry it everyday, but this summer the lunch pail was given out to the defender that had the best week of summer conditioning. The lunch pail made its way from Jovonn Quillen to Jermaine Waller to Dax Hollifield as they displayed the characteristics that define the mantra in the weight room.

“It’s just going through everybody,” Floyd said. “The goal is to have everyone touch it at one time. That means they are doing what they are supposed to do.”

When Floyd was asked how he would define that lunch pail mentality at the ACC Kickoff, he didn't have to think about his answer. 

“It means everything,” Floyd said. “It’s like your heart that’s in your body. It’s something that stays with you for the rest of your life once you get there. It’s really a dawg mentality thing, just have it with you [at all times].”

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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