By Tom E. Currab
TAMPA - I'm 5-10. With shoes.
So when I stood behind Jeff Demps in a media scrum on Wednesday and realized that he's about up to my nose, I once again found myself marveling at just how amazing these athletes like Demps, Wes Welker, Danny Woodhead, Kevin Faulk, Darren Sproles, etc. really are.
Blessed, yes. But - particularly in the case of Demps, who just returned from the London Olympics - wholly committed to doing all they can with the talent given.
Patriots running backs coach Ivan Fears was beaming Wednesday after his first padded practice with Demps.
Hes super fast," said Fears. "Just going back to his college history (at the University of Florida),the guy was extremely productive in college. All that is part ofit, but this is the first day weve seen him. So there isnt a whole lot totell you right now except that he got tired running two runs, so I was kind ofa little pissed off at him. Id like to know what type of Olympic training theydo. Its not conditioning for football.
Demps admitted as much after the practice, saying he could be beaten straight up in a 100-meter sprint at that point. That, no doubt, was humility.
No doubt aboutit," said Fears when asked if Demps is the fastest player he's coached. "I havent had anybody that Id say had world-class speed. Ive had somefast guys, but legitimate world-class speed? No.Fears has seen machines on the Patriots teams. Terry Glenn, Bethel Johnson and Donte Stallworth spring to mind. For Demps to be called the hands-down fastest shows just how speedy he is.
What's his prognosis?
Skill guys can play a lot faster than big guys can," said Fears. "Forhim, its mostly just getting his feet up under him, getting a little wind backin his lungs, and getting used to catching the ball. He hasnt touched it insix months, and getting the feel for what he did when he was back in college,getting back in the groove. Im sure it wont take that long for a guy likehim. Hes such a great athlete, just based on what Ive seen on film.Fortunately, this is not a track athlete that's dabbling. Demps is about football, which Fears noted when he pointed out how willing he was in blitz pickup drills.
Demps cited the family atmosphere in New England as a reason he signed here as opposed to with other pursuers like the Bucs and Jets.
He acknowledged he needs to get into football shape and get into the playbook fast to make a contribution.
Demps also is aware that what he's poised to do this season - regardless of his role with the Patriots - is unique.
"It's just a blessing to come from the Olympics and come to a football field," he pointed out. "Not many people do that, so it's just a blessing to do that.
Fears seems to feel a bit blessed himself. Within reason.
Im not going to go overboard," said the coach. "What hes done has beentruly amazing and a great story, but out here, I aint giving him nothing. Hesgoing to earn everything he gets from us. No matter how I feel about him,unless he does it on the field, hes not getting anything else.