Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps has a little of everything on his resume: national championship with Tim Tebow, Olympic silver medal with the U.S. 4x100 relay at the London Olympics and now NFL player. The Bucs kickoff returner took a few minutes to talk with Times staff writer Greg Auman.
You remember the first time you knew you were fast; really fast?
I was always winning the races in the neighborhood. But there was one time, I forget what I did. My mom was a softball player in high school. That's where I got my speed from. I did something, got in trouble and she started chasing me. I ran out the back door, and she couldn't catch me. It's like I was floating. That's when I realized it. I was gone, and she couldn't get close to me.
Favorite memories of the Olympics last year in London?
I enjoyed it. My favorite part was hanging out with my teammates at what we called the "D Block," like a dorm room. All the track guys hung out there, but we invited guys from any sport to come by. I met some of the basketball players, beach volleyball, boxing, table tennis.
You're planning on going back to track next spring. When do you flip the switch back to being a sprinter?
After the season. I try not to think about it too much during football. Whenever I'm done with this season, I'll decide and see where we go from there.
When do you start thinking about the Rio Olympics in 2016?
I'm pretty sure I'll think about it when I'm back on the track. When I'm here, it's just football. And when I'm in track and field mode, everything's track. It can be a distraction thinking about the things you want to accomplish. I just try to focus on what I'm doing.
Best place you've visited outside the United States with your track travels?
Just based on the good food I had was the Bahamas. The food was amazing there. I had fried lobster, conch fritters. It was great.
You wear No. 32 now after Nos. 2 and 28 when you were with the Gators. Is there a story behind that?
I had options. I think 31, 32 or 35. My first year ever playing football, I was 6, 7 years old, was 32. So I decided to go back to that.
You ran the 100 meters as fast as 9.96 seconds and had a few other NFL players who were college sprinters at the same time as you. Who were the fastest?
I raced Trindon Holliday (LSU/Broncos) my freshman year, but I ended up getting hurt during the race. I never got to race Jacoby Ford (Clemson/Raiders) when I was in college or C.J. Spiller (Clemson/Bills), but that would have been fun.
Where do you keep your silver medal?
I have it in a safe back at home. Sometimes, I forget I even have it. I had it in my Olympic bookbag for the longest time. I don't break it out unless somebody wants to see it or something.
Guilty-pleasure TV show?
I actually like to watch George Lopez every night before I go to bed. Before that, it was The Nanny.
Time for a little word association. First word that pops into your head. Urban Meyer?
Tough as well.
Who else is in that blazing fast category for you?
Justin Gatlin, Tyson Gay, Yohan Blake. Those are the top guys. When I watch film, I watch those guys.
Favorite memory from your first NFL game against Arizona two weeks ago?
It was just going out during warmups, looking around the stadium. Just to realize you're here. You have an opportunity that a lot of people don't have, so take advantage of it.
Had you ever been to an NFL game as a fan?
My first NFL game was when I was on the field in the preseason last year (with Patriots).
How has this team embraced you in the past month?
It's been great. The guys welcomed me with open arms. You have a lot of guys, the first thing is "You want to race?" Just challenging me. But everybody's been supportive, behind me. They're pushing for me to be a good player here.
You get that a lot, the "want to race" thing? Away from football, in the grocery store?
I get it a lot. I'm used to it. I just look at it as "Hey, man, what's up?" But since I'm known for being a fast guy, it's "Hey, you want to race?" So that's like saying "What's up?" Coming up, I was a street runner. That's how I started. Any time I got a challenge, I was accepting it. I was running; no shoes, nothing, just a kid growing up.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected]
. Fast facts
Position: Running back/kick returner
Age: 23 (born Jan. 8, 1990)
Signed: By the Patriots after going undrafted in 2012 (he did not work out in order to focus on track)
Acquired: With a seventh-round pick for running back LeGarrette Blount on April 27, 2013