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Track star Demps to sign with Patriots

Posted by Greg A. Bedard  August 17, 2012 01:14 PM

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FOXBOROUGH -- Former Olympic track star Jeff Demps, who played running back at the University of Florida, will sign with the Patriots, sources confirmed.

Fox 13 in Tampa first reported the agreement.

Director of player personnel Nick Caserio wouldn't confirm Demps was headed to the Patriots.

Demps bypassed the scouting combine to concentrate on the Olympics, where he helped the 4x100 relay team win a silver medal. Demps ran in qualifying.

Demps, 22, averaged 5.8 yards per carry for the Gators as a senior. He returned 10 kickoffs for 250 yards, including a 99-yard touchdown.

The kicking game is where Demps figures to make the biggest impact with the Patriots. Coach Bill Belichick has talked about getting better production on returns, and he put his money where his mouth is by adding a talent to do that.

Demps is very small at about 5-foot-8 and 170 pounds -- somewhat similar to DeSean Jackson of the Eagles. It will be interesting to see how long it will take him to get into football shape.

Any team could have spent a draft pick on Demps with the hopes of him deciding to play football after the Olympics. None chose to do so, but several teams had interest in Demps, including the Buccaneers and the Jets.

"Jeff is a great guy and a great player and he is someone that I was proud to play with in college," Jets quarterback Tim Tebow, a college teammate with the Gators, said this week. "He did a great job for us, in college. … I talk to him as a friend, but the Jets [are] a great organization and a great place. Would we love to have him? Absolutely. I would as a teammate just because I know how hard he works and what he could bring to the table."

If he declared for the draft, Demps likely would have been picked anywhere from the middle to late in the draft.

Since other teams were interested, Demps likely got assurances from the Patriots that he'll be on the team.

But Demps is going to have to prove himself just like any other rookie. He'll have to show that his college skills can translate to the NFL level. Depending on whether or not he is ready for NFL-caliber hitting, you'd figure he would factor into the final two preseason games. Demps can't suit up for Monday night's game against the Eagles.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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