Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps is where he wants to be: on the football field

GAINESVILLE — Jeff Demps sat among his teammates Friday afternoon during Florida's annual media day and carefully surveyed the situation.

To his left was teammate and fellow running back Chris Rainey. On his right, all-purpose player Trey Burton and tight end Jordan Reed. As Demps watched, spoke and listened to his teammates, it slowly occurred to him that he had made the right decision.

"It feels good just to be around my teammates and just to be in this football atmosphere," Demps said. "I feel better than ever, and I'm ready to kick off the season."

Since January, Demps has spent the majority of his time competing with the Florida and U.S. national men's track teams. The 2010 NCAA outdoor 100-meter champion, Demps didn't even get a chance to defend his title after failing to make the finals of the 2011 NCAA championships. It began to stir doubt about his role as a dual-sport athlete.

"I thought about just focusing on track," Demps said. "Maybe if I was just to focus on track, I would be able to run faster times if I lost some weight. I felt like I could run faster if maybe I just gave track a full year, lost a little weight. I definitely gave (quitting football) some thought.

"But when I got back in the football atmosphere and talking it over with my parents and coaches — both sides, track and football — and praying about it, I came out with the decision that I wanted to play."

Demps, a 5-foot-7, 188-pound senior, admits the foot injury frustrated him and factored into his confusion. He sprained his foot in the Sept. 18 game at Tennessee and said he wasn't completely healed until his first track meet in February.

"It was really mentally tough for me," he said. "I wanted to go, and I felt like I could go, but I couldn't do it physically. It was real frustrating for me."

In his final season, Demps' new attitude includes a new number. He's no longer No. 2, but No. 28.

"I just wanted a running back's number," he said.

Last season, Demps and Rainey were projected to be a 1-2 tandem at running back. But Demps' injury and Rainey's legal trouble derailed that plan.

It was Rainey who helped Demps make his decision.

"I had a long talk with him and I was like, 'Man, it's your choice but I can't do this by myself,' " said Rainey, a redshirt senior. "It's two different ways he could go, but I couldn't do anything when it's his choice. But it's easier if there are two running backs instead of one."

Now both healthy and given one last opportunity, each is hoping to capitalize like never before on their potential. The two have combined for 3,504 rushing yards, and Demps has rushed for 1,901 yards and 28 touchdowns.

Many believe if Demps and Rainey had stayed on the field all season in 2010, UF might have been much better than 8-5.

Rainey doesn't disagree.

"You are probably right about that," he said. "But we're going to have to see that on the field."

Antonya English can be reached at English@sptimes.com.

Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps is where he wants to be: on the football field

08/05/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 5, 2011 10:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Ready to win, and win big:' Dick Vitale sees Bucs going 10-6

    Blogs

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, whose love and optimism for Tampa Bay sports teams goes far beyond basketball, has high hopes for the Bucs in 2017.

    ESPN's Dick Vitale, shown at One Buc Place last year when he announced a Bucs draft pick, has high hopes for Tampa Bay this fall, predicting a 10-6 record for the Bucs.
  2. Want elite college football athletes? Recruit Tampa Bay

    Blogs

    Now that college football watch list season is over (I think), here's one takeaway you probably already knew: Tampa Bay produces a lot of great athletes.

    Robinson High produuct Byron Pringle has gone from this performance in a high school all-star game to all-Big 12 at Kansas State.
  3. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    Rookie RHP Jake Faria had his lucky rubber duck — OG, the original one he has had since high school — with him, and the Rays had nothing to worry about as he put his rocky Wednesday outing well behind him, working into the eighth while scattering seven hits.

  5. Rays journal: Rookie Jacob Faria continues to show veteran poise

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Orioles threatened in the first inning and the second. They loaded the bases with one out in the fifth inning with the top of the order up and seemed poised for a big inning. But those opportunities produced only one run because Rays rookie RHP Jacob Faria kept his composure and got the …

    Jacob Faria goes a career-high 71/3 innings, staying composed when the Orioles threaten.