Patriots to sign Olympic silver medalist Jeff Demps
According to various league sources, Olympic silver medalist and former Florida Gator running back Jeff Demps has finalized a deal to sign with the New England Patriots.
Demps won his silver medal by helping the USA 4x100m relay team through the second round of preliminaries to qualify for the finals in London, although he was not one of the four in the final race. He was also an integral part of the team that won Florida’s third national title, rushing 78 times for 605 yards and averaging 7.8 yards per carry in that 2008 season.
The addition of Demps on the Patriots roster means there are now six former Florida Gators on the team, including former teammates Brandon Spikes and Aaron Hernandez along with Jermaine Cunningham, Gerard Warren, and Jabar Gaffney.
The singing of Demps gives the Patriots a massive opportunity to improve their special teams kick return game. Since 2008, after the trade of previous kick return specialist Ellis Hobbs, the Patriots have struggled to find consistency at the position. The past few years, the likes of Julian Edelman, Brandon Tate and Matthew Slater have tried to fill the roll on a rotating basis. The running backs have also had their stabs at it, including Danny Woodhead, Stevan Ridley and Shane Vereen who have all handled the roll at some point or another.
Obviously the position needs help, and Demps presents major potential to kick start the return game and give a potent Tom Brady offense some serious field position. Demps’ personal best in the 100m sprint is 10.01 seconds, (he has run a 9.96, but it was a wind-aided time). His personal best in the 200m sprint is 21.04 seconds, making him by far one of the fastest athletes in the NFL. Any back that can run the length of the field in 10 seconds is a nightmare for opposing special teams units.
The 5-foot-9, 181-pound Demps can be used in other ways as well, particularly as a possible third down back. He is of similar size to Vereen, though perhaps leaner and better suited in a Kevin Faulk-type roll. The 22-year-old amassed 2,470 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns in his four years at the University of Florida.
His choice to forgo pre-draft workouts to focus on his track running for the Olympics left him undrafted; but with a silver medal around his neck and some serious college football pedigree, Demps has all the makings of an athlete that can fill a major need for this team. Still, he has not been through any spring or summer training with an NFL team on any level yet, so it will inevitably be a tough transition for him as he catches up with the other rookies and the rest of the team.