TAMPA — Less than eight months ago, former University of Florida sprinter/running back Jeff Demps made a life-changing declaration, giving up football to pursue his Olympic dreams.
Now, with a silver medal in hand, Demps is realizing he can have the best of both worlds.
The versatile runner and receiver on Tuesday retained NFL agent Daniel Rose and is drawing interest from several teams, including the Bucs.
"There's a lot of interest," Rose said. "We talked to some teams before the Olympics, but we wanted him to concentrate on the Olympics. Preparing for the Olympics is a very regimented process, and he needed to focus on that.
"At 22 years old, how could you tell a kid not to go to the Olympics?"
That was the driving force behind Demps' decision in January to give up football. He said then: "I can have the mind-set of a full-time track guy now."
His track coach at UF, Mike Holloway, summed up the decision: "What has made Jeff unique is that Jeff has always done very, very good things in track and field while lifting (weights) and other things that football players do. … If you can do the things he has done, training as a football/track guy, what happens when he is just a track guy?"
Demps provided the answer in London, helping the American men's 4x100 relay team place second.
But NFL teams have continually expressed interest, Rose said, making it clear Demps has options. He returned from London on Monday, immediately turning his thoughts to football.
As of Tuesday, there was no resolution, but the Bucs certainly are in the picture.
"I've spoken to the Bucs," Rose said, "but there are a lot of other teams interested. He's not committed to any team yet. He just got off the plane. But Tampa Bay would be a great fit. We're going to let it play out and he'll be somewhere soon."
The postponement of Demps' football career proved worthwhile. Demps ran the first leg of the 4x100 preliminary in London, helping the quartet finish in 37.38, an American record.
The team ultimately placed second and Demps was awarded a silver medal. But Demps nearly didn't make the cut in the first place; he was added to Team USA in late July as a replacement for injured Mike Rodgers.
Demps is considered undersized for the NFL at around 5 feet 8 and 190 pounds, but his speed sets him well apart. It's an asset whether Demps lines up in the backfield or as a receiver, both of which he often has done. He also averaged 25 yards on kickoff returns last season at UF.
It's unclear how the Bucs would use Demps, but most of his experience has come as a running back. He averaged 6.7 yards per carry at UF, rushing for 569 yards in 12 games as a senior.
Rose said he was mildly surprised Demps wasn't drafted in April, though that was probably attributable to the decision to pursue track.
Demps' camp hardly has any regrets, especially given his real NFL prospects.
"It wouldn't have been in anyone's best interest to tell him to skip the Olympics," Rose said. "That's something he'll have forever."
Times staff writer Antonya English contributed to this report. Stephen F. Holder can be reached at [email protected]