Former Gators running back Jeff Demps participated in his first NFL practice on Wednesday afternoon.
He practiced in Tampa at One Buc Place, the practice facility of the Tampa Bay Bucs. That is where many expected Demps to practice for the first time considering the Bucs were one of the teams interested in signing him.
Instead, Demps signed with New England and rejoined former Florida teammates Brandon Spikes, Jermaine Cunningham and Aaron Hernandez with the Patriots. The Patriots are in Tampa this week for a preseason game and while there, they are practicing at the Bucs’ facility.
Demps told reporters the familiarity with the Patriots helped him make his final decision.
“Once I talked to the Patriots, I kind of got the feeling that’s where I wanted to be,” Demps said. “Everything was family based … like I was already part of the team.”
Demps said it was the first time he has touched a football since Florida’s win over Ohio State in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day. Demps recently won a silver medal in the Olympics and is now returning to football and training exclusively for track the past several months.
“He’s been pretty successful doing it,’’ Gators football coach Will Muschamp said of Demps’ ability to go back and forth from football to track.
Muschamp said he wasn’t surprised Demps decided to return to football. The Gators received several calls about Demps once he made it known he planned to return to the sport.
“Jeff’s a great guy and a guy that can certainly be a very valuable third-down back and a returner,’’ Muschamp said. “He’s a guy that when he touches the ball he can take it the distance.”