Jeff Demps is the kind of running back who would raise a lot of eyebrows at this week's NFL Combine. Just imagine him doing this in an NFL uniform:

But Demps will not be in Indianapolis this weekend. Florida's New Year's Day win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl was likely the last football game of Demps' life.

Instead, the 22-year-old senior is focusing exclusively on his track career, preparing to repeat as NCAA champion and land a spot on the 2012 U.S. Olympic team.

"At the bottom of my heart," Demps says, "I just love running."

Though he likely would have been a mid-round selection in the 2012 NFL Draft, Demps made up his mind during the week leading up to the Gator Bowl to pursue only track.

Mike Holloway, Florida's track and field head coach, was "ecstatic" upon receiving the news from his four-time national champion.

Together, Holloway and Demps will chase NCAA titles and Olympic glory.

"He can become one of the best," Holloway says. "Jeff believes that also, or we wouldn't be doing this."


Demps burst on the track scene -- literally -- when at 18 years old he kept pace with Tyson Gay in the first heat of the 100-meter quarterfinals at the 2008 Olympic Trials.

His time of 10.01 seconds set a junior world record. Afterwards, Gay told him to stay focused because he had the talent to go far.

"Just having that experience at such a young age," Demps says, "it helped me at times during my collegiate career."

Demps' track career at Florida has been nothing short of remarkable.

The two-time NCAA indoor champion in the 60 meters won outdoor NCAA championships in the 100 (9.96 seconds with a +2.5 wind reading) and 4 X 100 relay in 2010.

He still has room to improve, too: Demps wants to become more patient at the start of each race.

But now that he's devoted to just one sport, refinement should come more easily and help him achieve his immediate goal of leading Florida to the 2012 national championship.

Then he will focus on performing in the 100 and 4 X 100 during June's U.S. Olympic Trials. Holloway thinks Demps can run faster than 9.9 seconds and medal.

"He has that potential down the road. There's no doubt about that," Holloway says. "It's just a matter of us getting the proper training model and getting the proper steps taken to keep him healthy."

Holloway's role as a men's U.S. Olympic Team assistant coach specializing in sprinters and hurdlers also should bolster the Gator's Olympic chances.

Demps ran poorly during the 60-meter semifinal at last year’s indoor championships, but Holloway approached his protege and told him to run like the school's all-time record holder in the 60.

Demps won the final in 6.53 seconds.

"When the gun went off that night," Holloway says, "from the first step I knew he was going to be the national champion."


Demps is the only Florida athlete to win a national championship in two sports; he started 27 football games and rushed for 2,470 yards during his four years.

He led the Gators in rushing during 2010 and ranked fifth in the country with a 7.5 average per carry during 2009.

Although Chris Rainey became Florida's main back in 2011, Demps still provided highlight material, including nine runs of more than 20 yards. His 84-yard TD run against Kentucky (above) was Florida’s longest since an Emmitt Smith run in 1988.

"Jeff was a key part of our offense," says head coach Will Muschamp. "With his world-class speed, he provided a home run threat and could score on any given play."

On the opening play of the Georgia game, he took a pass reception 72 yards and then returned a second quarter kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown.

Pro Football Weekly draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki said an NFL team likely would have selected Demps in the third or fourth rounds of the draft.

"He had a lot of value because of his versatility," Nawrocki says. "He would’ve been an excellent utility back in the pros."

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Although Demps did not have the build to become an every-down workhorse, Nawrocki says he could have gone as high as the second round. That is where the Kansas City Chiefs selected Dexter McCluster, a third-down back/slot receiver with a similar skill set, in 2010.


But Demps has not looked back. He has transitioned from football to track each year at Florida, bypassing spring football practice for track work.

This season, he has taken it to another level.

"This is the first year he’s tried to really transform his body," Holloway says. "In the past he was still trying to prepare for football down the road."

Demps has cut back on both heavy and upper body lifts and reduced his caloric intake while running longer distances.

The 5-9 Demps wants to drop from 191 to 175, a weight he expects to reach by June.

"You gotta lean up," he says.

Demps is not the first Florida athlete to juggle track and football. Most notably there was John Capel, who finished eighth in the 2000 Olympics and won the gold medal at the 2003 World Championships in the 200 meters. (He also finished five spots behind Demps in that 2008 100 meter quarterfinal.)

Capel, though, was not Demps' peer on the football field -- nor did he pursue that sport with the same dedication. He played only two years at wide receiver, catching 11 passes before forgoing his college career for the Olympics.

Because of his speed, however, the Chicago Bears drafted Capel in the seventh round of the 2001 draft. They released him during training camp, and the Chiefs did the same the following season.

Along the same lines, Nawrocki says he would not be surprised if an NFL team picks Demps in the seventh round in case he eventually plays football.

Could Demps eventually reverse course and suit up on Sundays?

"Who knows? Maybe somewhere down the line," Demps says, "I may give it a shot. But as far as now, I’m just trying to concentrate on (track.)"

Demps said that it was "kind of tough" to watch the Super Bowl and see former college teammates Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Spikes excel for the New England Patriots.

But when he informed Holloway about his choice to become a professional sprinter, Demps looked like a man very much at peace with his decision.

"He was smiling," Holloway says. "He was happy."

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