Make us your home page

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ex-Gator Demps moves onto his mark for Bucs

As a senior at Florida in 2011, Jeff Demps was one of two players nationally to have a run, reception and return of 70 yards or more.


As a senior at Florida in 2011, Jeff Demps was one of two players nationally to have a run, reception and return of 70 yards or more.

TAMPA — Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen warns even his fastest players that because of the overall speed in the SEC and NFL, "everyone gets caught."

A rare breakaway exception, the former Gator assistant coach says, is Jeff Demps, who played running back at Florida, won a relay silver medal at last year's Olympics and joined the Bucs active roster Monday.

"He was a home run hitter. He didn't get caught," Mullen said. "If you got him through the line of scrimmage with the ball in his hands, it was, 'See you later.' "

Ask Bucs coach Greg Schiano the last time he coached a player with Demps' raw speed, and he goes back before his 11 seasons at Rutgers to his time as an assistant at the University of Miami.

"Santana (Moss), when he was young, was really lightning," Schiano said. "But I don't think even he was as fast as Jeff. Jeff's a fast guy."

Demps, 23, has run the 100 meters as fast as 9.96 seconds. Right after the Olympics last year, he signed with the Patriots. But within two weeks, he sprained a knee ligament, ending his season and taking him out of action for six months.

His arrival with the Bucs — after a trade that also netted a seventh-round pick and sent running back LeGarrette Blount to New England — was delayed by international commitments to track. He said it was tempting, at times, to allow himself to move on and focus on track but football still has a hold on him.

"I'm a two-sport athlete," said Demps, a 5-foot-7, 191-pounder who ran for 23 touchdowns, caught one and returned a kickoff for one touchdown for the Gators from 2008-11.

"I grew up playing football. I fell in love with track, but I'm trying to make the most of both opportunities,"

Florida used Demps' world-class speed creatively. As a senior in 2011, he was one of two Division I-A players with a run, catch and kick return of 70 yards or more. The other, West Virginia receiver Tavon Austin, was taken eighth overall by the Rams in April.

The easy misconception, Mullen said, is to write off Demps as a track star in pads.

"It's the opposite," said Mullen, who recruited him out of Groveland South Lake High for the Gators. "He's a football guy who went out for track, and all of a sudden, he's in the Olympics.

"He always had that football mind-set. He knew football and learned how to run track. That's what you love; that football attitude, that demeanor to be physical with the ball in his hands. He'll run the ball between the tackles."

The Bucs could use a spark on offense and returns, and it's unknown how fast Demps can learn enough to be active on Sundays. Mullen said he's a dream for a coach looking for a defense that tries to match a linebacker — any linebacker — against a player with Demps' explosiveness.

"What made him electric was when you had opportunities to get him matched up on somebody one on one in the open field," he said. "He's just so fast. He gets you so back on your heels because of the speed. He separates in a hurry."

Ex-Gator Demps moves onto his mark for Bucs 09/26/13 [Last modified: Thursday, September 26, 2013 11:04pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rays vs. Blue Jays, 7:10 p.m. Tuesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Blue Jays

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

  2. Baseball team's eclipse watch during game draws fans from far away


    KEIZER, Ore. — They came from Hawaii, Rhode Island and Alaska, and as far as the Dominican Republic and Australia.

    Players for the minor-league baseball Salem-Keizer Volcanoes wear special eclipse jerseys Monday.
  3. Florida State sees plenty of upside in Dade City native Jacob Pugh


    TALLAHASSEE — No, Florida State senior Jacob Pugh is not as versatile as teammate Derwin James.

     Florida State Seminoles linebacker Jacob Pugh (16) and Florida State Seminoles defensive end DeMarcus Walker (44) celebrate after sacking the Miami quarterback Saturday October 8, 2016 at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens.
  4. 247Sports: Berkeley Prep's Nicholas Petit-Frere top OT in nation


    Berkeley Prep offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere already is widely considered the best player in Tampa Bay.

    Berkeley Prep rising senior defensive end Nicholas Petit-Frere (78) performs a pad drill during spring football practice at Berkeley Prep in Tampa, Fla., on Thursday, May 12, 2017.
  5. Full disclosure: My AP Top 25 ballot


    Now that you've seen the preseason AP Top 25, here's what I submitted in my first year as a voter. The AP doesn't give us many guidelines in the preseason. I didn't try to predict how …