The Southeastern Conference is no stranger to athletes excelling in two sports. Auburn’s Bo Jackson did it in football and baseball. Georgia’s Herschel Walker did it in football and track. Now it’s Jeff Demps’ turn. The Florida running back and track star is taking up where Jackson and Walker left off.
Despite a foot injury, Demps, a Winter Garden, Fla., native, was a standout for the 2010 Gators’ football team. And he has recovered spectacularly to have strong seasons – indoors and outdoors.
In his previous competition, the Tom Jones Invitational, Demps won the men’s 100-meter dash in a time of 9.96, the fastest wind-assisted 100m time in the world this season — which also matched his previous wind-assisted personal-best of 9.96, run en route to the 2010 NCAA 100m Championship in Eugene, Ore.
He also anchored the 4×100 relay, helping the Gators edge Texas A&M and win the race with a time of 39.07 seconds, the fifth fastest time in the country this season. He will compete in the 4×100 relays at the Penn Relays.
To excel as he has at such a high level in two sports, and to be mentioned along side Jackson and Walker be a burden to Demps if he cared about such accolades. To his credit and benefit, he doesn’t.
“I don’t think about that stuff at all,” Demps said. “I am out there just trying to help my teams. I’ve got too much to do to worry about that.”
On his plate was being the Gators’ top offensive weapon last fall. He led Florida with 551 rushing yards and had a team-high 927 all-purpose yards. He had 18 receptions for 116 yards (6.4 average) and returned eight kickoffs for 260 yards (32.5-yard average). All this while missing two games after spraining his left foot against Tennessee.
Those who are Florida track fans enhanced the groan that went up from Gator faithful when Demps came down with his injury against the Vols. One injury, two sports in jeopardy.
“All I was thinking about was recovery and getting back for football,” Demps said. I wasn’t thinking about track. I give all the credit for the strength and conditioning coach for getting me back out there.
“I recovered better than I thought, and being hurt made me want to make the best of opportunities to compete. [Being in the SEC], I know each week I am going to compete against the best athletes in the country in each sport. Every week you have to go out there as if you are playing for the national championship. You never know who is going to have that 10 flat or run a 9.86.”
Run over you, instead of trying to run past you. There is a major difference in Demps’ mind when considering which is tougher – football or track. It’s football hands down.
“In football, there are 11 guys trying to punish me,” Demps said. “I am out there against 300 pound linemen whose only agenda is to take my head off. Track is a lot different. I am not thinking about the other guys out there. I am out there focusing on my race and waiting for the gun to go off.”
And when it does go off, Demps is outstanding. Last year he claimed the NCAA 100m outdoor title and this year has already helped his team win the NCAA men’s indoor championship for a second consecutive season.
“That has been my proudest moment,” Demps said. “I never experienced any team title I middle school and high school. It was a great experience to come out and get one of those with the guys I have been training so hard with.”
Hard work is no is no stranger to Demps. How could it be? He plays two sports in addition to class work. That means a schedule that leaves little room for anything else.
He starts his day in the weight room at 7:30 a.m. From there it is on to class, then practice, then study hall. Five days a week. All year long.
And this spring, although he is not playing football, he still is involved with the program taking in meetings as well. It’s all in the name of staying among the best of both sports.
“It took me until my sophomore year to adjust to it,” Demps said. “It was tough. Now it is just second nature.
“I am a football player who runs track. That is how it has always been for me. I still have so much work to do in both sports. I know I can start better [in sprints]. There is always room for improvement. But for right now, I just want to help this team win another team title. The rest will take care of itself.”