RB Jeff Demps: “I tried to do the best that I could.”

A dual-sport star and the only man or woman in the history of the Florida Gators athletic program to win national championships in two sports (football, track & field), Jeff Demps is one of the most accomplished athletes to come out of the University of Florida and has only added to his resume this past year.

As a football player, Demps played running back and took 367 carries for 2,470 yards (6.73 yards per carry) while registering 23 touchdowns over four seasons. He also had a 99-yard kick return touchdown in his senior season against Georgia. Demps started the 2009 BCS National Championship as a freshman and won both a national title and Southeastern Conference title as part of the football program.

As a track star, he was a five-time All-American who won four individual national championships, five individual SEC championships and was part of a men’s track program that dominated both national and conference meets, winning multiple titles in both indoor and outdoor competitions.

Demps decided to concentrate on track after college and participated in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials. He fell short of qualifying for the 2012 London Olympics but earned a spot as an injury replacement and brought home a silver medal.

After returning to the United States, he signed a three-year deal with the New England Patriots as an undrafted free agent but missed the entire season with a leg injury. Demps is expected to play his rookie season in 2013.

He has spent the last few months working as an ambassador for the Special Olympics and sat down with OGGOA recently for a wide-ranging interview.

ADAM SILVERSTEIN: Let’s jump back to the beginning and start with your recruitment. I remember a lot of people always thought you would end up at Florida but what was it in the end that made you decide to go to UF over Tennessee?
JEFF DEMPS: “Florida just felt like home. I didn’t really want to go too far from home. Tennessee came down to recruit me, and I liked what they were talking about, but at the end of the day I knew I was always going to end up at Florida.”

AS: You got into the mix right away, scoring in the SEC Championship and starting at running back in the national title game. What was it like being a freshman and getting thrown into the lineup on a team that was having so much success?
JD: “It was fun. I knew coming in that, if I worked hard enough and learned the plays, I would have some kind of role on the offense as a freshman. That’s what I did and I was able to do those things like start in the championship and score in the SEC Championship and things like that.”

AS: Your sophomore season was something special as the Gators were looking to win back-to-back titles. How much pressure would you say the team felt each game to live up to the hype and deliver on winning another championship?
JD: “We had a lot of pressure. We were coming back and expected to win the championship. I’d say everybody wanted to see us hold up to the standard. We knew each team was going to bring their ‘A’ game and play us like we were the most important opponent on their schedule. It was really tough.”

Read the rest of OGGOA’s exclusive interview with Jeff Demps…after the break!
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Gators RB Jeff Demps expected to sign Thursday

Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps expects to sign with an NFL team on Thursday and join that team immediately, agent Daniel Rose of Gridiron Sports confirmed to OGGOA late Wednesday evening over the phone.

“Within the next 24 hours we’re going to wrap this up,” he said.

Demps, who decided on Jan. 12 to give up football in order to concentrate on his career as a sprinter, filed paperwork this week to become a NFL free agent. He is able to sign with any team he chooses after not being selected in the seven-round 2012 NFL Draft.

Rose, who spoke with all 32 teams about Demps, told OGGOA that a dozen teams are seriously interested in the player’s services though only a handful have made the final cut and will be involved in Thursday’s decision-making process.

Demps is technically considered an undrafted free agent under the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement so the parameters of his rookie contract will be somewhat limited. He can sign for up to three years though the monetary terms of his deal are not necessarily as important as the opportunity a specific team might provide him, Rose said.

“Every team has a different idea of how to use him and basically every team has given us an idea of what they want to do with him,” he explained. “We’re going to look at what teams have, what they want to do with him and take all of that into consideration. We’ve really done our homework.

“Just because a team offers him the most money does not mean they will be the team that gets him. Obviously money is great – and we’ll definitely get a nice deal – but it’s not like a team can come in, offer ‘X’ and all of a sudden they’re the right fit.”

Demps reportedly has been planning to make this move after failing to initially qualify for the 2012 London Olympics in July. Demps wound up being selected as an injury replacement and won a silver medal as part of the first round team for the United States in the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay, delaying his football plans by a few weeks.

Now that he is eligible to sign with a team, it makes sense that he would do so as soon as possible. NFL training camp began two weeks ago (playbooks were handed out months ago) and Demps will be behind no matter which team picks him up.

Though a dozen organizations have expressed high levels of interest in Demps according to his agent, two that have been specifically named by other media outlets over the last two days are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New York Jets.

Tampa is reportedly “seriously interested” in signing Demps and initially contacted him in July. New York, which is looking to add playmakers to its lacking roster, reached out to Demps and his agent more recently, according to the Newark Star-Ledger.

Demps will have a lot thrown at him quickly no matter where he signs.

He will not only be weeks behind in learning the team’s playbook and familiarizing himself with its procedures but will also have to change his body again, adding muscle mass that he lost over the last six months for the purpose of become a more proficient sprinter.

Photo Credit: John Raoux/Associated Press

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Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics

The 2012 London Olympics concluded on Sunday with the Florida Gators bringing home 16 event medals including four gold, six silver and six bronze over the course of 19 days worth of action across the pond.

In an effort to highlight the Gators’ praiseworthy accomplishments while simultaneously recapping over two weeks worth of athletic action, OGGOA presents this wrap up of the presence that Florida’s athletes made at the Olympics. Below you will find facts, figures and highlights of what the Gators accomplished from July 25 through Aug. 12.

You can check out the Olympic results as they happened as well as the official Gator Nation vs. The World medal count and plenty of other information by checking out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

FACTS AND FIGURES

» If Gator Nation was its own country, it would have been ranked 17th overall in the final Olympic medal both in weighted and grand total calculations. The Gators won as many gold medals (four) as Jamaica and Czech Republic and captured one more than Spain, Brazil and South Africa (among others).

» Twelve Florida athletes won a grand total of 18 individual medals (16 event medals) for three countries. Fourteen of the 16 medals won were captured for the United States.

» 35.3 percent of the Gators that competed in the Olympics (12-of-34) won at least one medal. 50 percent (17-of-34) at least reached a final or competed for a medal.

» Ryan Lochte (swimming, United States) led the way with five medals including two golds (one shared in a relay with Conor Dwyer), two silvers and a bronze. Following Lochte with two each were Elizabeth Beisel (swimming, United States) and Will Claye (athletics, United States), who both brought home a silver and a bronze.

» Three other Florida athletes won gold including Christian Taylor (athletics, United States), Abby Wambach and Heather Mitts (football, United States). The rest of the medals included a silver each from Tony McQuay and Jeff Demps (athletics, United States) as well as a bronze each from Lisa Raymond (tennis, United States), Melanie Booth (football, Canada) and Novlene Williams-Mills (athletics, Jamaica).

» Beisel is the only current UF student-athlete that medaled in the Olympics. She will be entering her junior year in 2012.

» Seventeen countries were represented by Gators including the United States (11), Great Britain (6), Cayman Islands and Iceland (two each) and Australia, Barbados, Canada, Colombia, Haiti, Hungary, Jamaica, Poland, Puerto Rico, South Africa, Spain and Tunisia (one each). Florida athletes also competed in five sports categories including swimming (19), athletics (10), football (three), basketball and tennis (one each).

Read the rest of “Florida Gators at the 2012 London Olympics” after the break…

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McQuay adds a silver to Gators’ medal haul

Just 24 hours after former Florida Gators put together arguably the most accomplished day in school Olympic history, runner Tony McQuay (United States) added another silver medal to the team’s collection by running the third leg of the Men’s 4×400 Meter Relay for the second-place Americans at the 2012 London Olympics on Friday.

McQuay’s silver is the fifth won by the Gators in these Olympics as well as Florida’s 14th overall medal. It is also the fourth in track & field events after Christian Taylor brought home gold in the Men’s Triple Jump on Thursday and Will Claye grabbed silver in that event as well as bronze in the Men’s Long Jump.

As a member of the U.S. relay team that competed in the first round of the event, McQuay ran a 43.65 split, the fastest of any of the 64 runners that competed in that round. He topped that mark with a 43.41 split in the finals, faster than any of the 36 men in the race. McQuay left the Americans in first place before handing off the baton.

Two more Gators could compete in Olympic track action in the final day of competition.

Jeff Demps (United States) ran the first leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay for the Americans on Friday. The U.S. finished first overall with a national record time of 37.38. Though Demps may not be chosen to join the final foursome competing in the finals of the event, he will still be eligible for a medal due to his participation in the first round.

Novlene Williams-Mills (Jamaica) did not run for her country in the Women’s 4×400 Meter Relay on Friday but is expected to be added to the team for the event finals. Jamaica ran a seasonal best 3:25.13 but finished fourth overall in their first round race.

For a recap of Friday’s events with stats, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

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Wambach, Mitts add team gold for USA, Florida

Revenge was a dish best served gold for the U.S. Women’s National Team on Thursday as the Americans defeated the Japanese 2-1 in the Gold Medal Match of the 2012 London Olympics and avenged a penalty kick loss in the 2011 Women’s World Cup.

Through the leadership of veteran striker Abby Wambach and a pair of goals from midfielder Carli Lloyd, the United States nearly led from start-to-finish despite giving Japan multiple chances to get back into the match.

Lloyd’s diving header at 8’, off a perfect cross from forward Alex Morgan, put the Americans on top 1-0. Wambach was also in the area and could just as easily have kicked in the first goal of the match.

U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo was tested early and often by the Japanese, making a huge stop at 19’ and another at 38’ with the help of the crossbar to allow the United States to take a 1-0 lead into the half.

Lloyd came through again after the break, dribbling through three defenders and striking a ball into the far corner of the net at 56’ to put the Americans on top 2-0.

However, just minutes later, the Japanese cut their deficit in half when Yuki Ogimi grabbed a rebound off of a deflection from Solo and put it into the back of the net at 64’.

The United States held on for the remainder of the match with Solo making another fantastic save to starve off a game-tying goal from Japan in the waining minutes of regulation, giving the Americans their third gold medal in as many Olympics and fourth in the last five games.

The contest between the Americans and Japanese was seen by 80,203 patrons at Wembley Stadium, a record crowd for an Olympic women’s soccer match.

Wambach took home her second career Olympic gold medal, and fellow former Florida Gators soccer star Heather Mitts captured her third despite only seeing action in one game over the course of the Olympics.

Wambach played full time in every match and scored a goal in each of the first five contests. She has increased her scoring total to 143 goals in 188 international matches and is just 16 away from tying Mia Hamm for most all-time.

Joining Wambach and Mitts in celebrating an Olympic soccer medal on Thursday was Canadian reserve Melanie Booth who was added as an injury replacement early in the games and was awarded a bronze when her team defeated France 1-0 on Thursday morning. The United States took down Canada 4-3 in extra time on Monday.

Though Mitts plans to retire from professional soccer, Wambach has promised to return for the 2016 Rio Olympics in hopes of winning her third gold medal.

For a recap of the match with stats, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: Associated Press

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Gators Christian Taylor, Will Claye take home gold and silver for United States in Triple Jump

Former Florida Gators Christian Taylor and Will Claye dominated the finals of the Men’s Triple Jump at the 2012 London Olympics on Thursday, finishing first and second in the event, respectively, to take home gold and silver for the United States.

Taylor, 22, the reigning world champion and gold medal favorite going into the event, became the youngest jumper in 100 years to win Olympic gold in the Triple Jump.

He almost did not have the opportunity to be the first American since 1996 to capture gold in the event, however, after committing fouls on his first two introductory jumps.

Taylor hit a mark of 17.15m on his third attempt to cement his place in the top eight and qualify for three more jumps. He wasted little time showcasing his dominance, hitting a seasonal best of 17.81m on his fourth attempt, a mark that would win him the gold medal.

Claye, the world indoor champion in the event who already took home bronze on Saturday in the Men’s Long Jump, won silver with a mark of 17.62m on his fourth jump. He led through the first three jumps with a second attempt of 17.54m, a mark which only he and Taylor eclipsed over the duration of the event.

The medals won by Taylor and Claye mark the 11th and 12th by former Gators in these Olympics. Representatives of Florida now have three golds, four silvers and five bronzes over the course of the games with a handful of events remaining.

Taylor’s medal is also the first individual track & field gold in program history. Taylor and Claye’s medals are just the second and third field medals in school history.

For recaps of their performances, a full schedule (including updated events), live stream links and a Gator Nation vs. The World medal count, be sure to check out OGGOA’s Live Coverage of the 2012 London Olympics.

Photo Credit: Gregory Bull/Associated Press

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TWO BITS: Demps will run, Haden fails test

1 » Former Florida Gators running back Jeff Demps, who gave up football after his senior season and is now a professional sprinter, did not qualify run for the United States at the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team Trials in June. However, he did wind up being added to the team as an injury replacement just days before the 2012 London Olympics got underway and learned this week that he will be running the first leg of the Men’s 4×100 Meter Relay on Friday. “I was very excited,” Demps said in a statement issued by agent Nohemy Baltodano to the Orlando Sentinel. “This is an opportunity of a lifetime.” As a member of the relay pool, Demps was not assured a spot in the event but has still been practicing with the team in London, England. By competing in the preliminaries, he will be eligible for a medal should Team USA win one in the finals of the event even if he is not a member of the four-man team to run that race.

2 » According to ESPN Cleveland, a website that is the online home for radio stations WKNR 850 AM and KNRZ 1540 AM, Cleveland Browns cornerback Joe Haden is facing a possible four-game suspension after failing a NFL drug test that is currently being reviewed by the league. “One source said that Haden tested positive for the prescription drug Adderall during a routine, off-season test,” Will Burge and Tony Grossi wrote. “Adderall, which is commonly prescribed to treat attention deficit disorder and narcolepsy, is also used for excessive tiredness. It is on the NFL’s list of banned substances and is classified by the league as a stimulant.” Haden will have the opportunity to appeal his suspension, if one is handed down, though it would be unlikely for the NFL to change its mind barring something unforeseen.

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FOUR BITS: Wambach, Harvey, Jackson, Rainey

1 » U.S. Women’s National Team striker Abby Wambach is indeed a “G,” not due to the fact that she is one of the faces of Gatorade but rather because she used her “guile and gamesmanship” to help the United States achieve a 4-3 extra-time victory over Canada in the semifinals of the 2012 London Olympics on Monday. Wambach told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday that it was her subtle urging that led the referees to call a rare delay of game penalty on the Canadian goalkeeper, who was holding the ball in the penalty box for up to 15 seconds at times when rules state the ball should be out after six seconds. “I wasn’t yelling. I was just counting,” Wambach told Dan Wetzel of her decision to run next to the referee while heading back down the field. “Probably did it five or seven times.” And of the play in question in which the referee finally blew her whistle? “I got to 10 seconds right next to the referee and at 10 seconds she blew the whistle.”

Canada, of course, believes they were robbed in the match. (The call resulted in an indirect free kick inside the box; a handball was called on the kick and Wambach tied the match 3-3 on a penalty goal.) Though Wambach admits that the call is rare, she notes that it is well within the rules. Her subtle pestering of the referee almost assuredly helped the call be made when it ordinarily might not have been. “Yes it’s uncharacteristic,” she said. “But the rules are the rules. You can say it’s gamesmanship, you can say it’s smart, but I’m a competitor. We needed to get a goal. They’re trying to waste time; I’m trying to speed it up. [...] I think making the referee aware of a situation, there’s nothing wrong with that. At the end of the day, the ref made the decision on her own.”

2 » A former No. 8 overall pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, former Florida Gators defensive end Derrick Harvey was cut from his third team over the course of a year when the Cincinnati Bengals let him go on Sunday. Harvey, who signed with the team just four months ago, was released before participating in a single preseason game. After being released by the Jaguars last July, Harvey was picked up by the Denver Broncos but barely played last season and spent most of it as a healthy scratch on game day. His NFL career may very well be over.

3 » The commitment of three-star offensive lineman Octavius Jackson (Moultrie, GA), who is unranked by Rivals, to the Florida Gators last week came as a surprise to many considering the team has few open slots remaining and a number of highly-rated prospects on its board. The Gators, however, knew exactly what they were doing by brining Jackson on board and it appears as if they were early to what may become a very crowded party. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Jackson received “last-minute pleas by Alabama and Florida State” before committing to Florida. He already had a firm scholarship offer from Vanderbilt in his possession. “People have missed on him,” said Rush Propst, Jackson’s high school coach. “His only true offer until a few days ago was Vanderbilt, and they couldn’t believe nobody elsewas on him. Neither could I.”

4 » Running back Chris Rainey is turning heads in Pittsburgh Steelers training camp, a fact that should come as no surprise to Florida fans whose necks were often sore from watching him run in Gainesville, FL. USA Today’s Jim Corbett wrote a few days ago that “Rainey has been the Steelers’ buzz guy since he began flashing during organized team activities, and he’s carried it over to training camp.” Almost everyone from the team’s president on down believes Rainey can make an instant impact with Pittsburgh this season though head coach Mike Tomlin is being a bit more cautious considering how early it is in the process.

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