|Jeremy Bloom is counting the days to the NFL draft. The freestyle moguls skier, who has high hopes at his second Olympics, aims to return to competitive football once the 2006 Winter Games are over.|
Regarded as the athlete who spearheaded the charge against NCAA eligibility rules, Bloom has a firm hold as a two-sport star, even though his college football career was cut short at Colorado.
It was in 2004 that Bloom appealed a decision by the NCAA, which rendered the world champion skier ineligible to play college football. In August of that year, an appeals committee turned down Bloom's request to continue playing for the Buffaloes.
Bloom, who was a wide receiver, kickoff and punt returner for the Buffaloes in 2002 and '03, wanted to continue to compete for Colorado while also collecting endorsement money to support his pro skiing career. Bloom started accepting endorsements in the winter of 2003 to fund the costs of his training for the Turin Games.
However, the NCAA ruled Bloom "rendered himself permanently ineligible for intercollegiate athletics with multiple and willful violations of NCAA rules regarding endorsements." The organization said on matters of amateurism, "student-athletes are not permitted to endorse products and retain their eligibility."
Bloom continues to be frustrated to this day about the rule.
"When I was in college, part of the agreement was my sponsors would never reference me as a football player, never show me running a football, so it wouldn't cross over," Bloom said. "It wasn't my own ability limiting me from doing that, it was an organization of people that didn't do any of this, didn't put the long hours in, didn't dedicate every day, didn't do the things that I did," Bloom said. "I thought that was really unfair."
Right after the Olympics, Bloom will head to the NFL Scouting Combine to showcase his talents in the hopes of being drafted. The men's moguls are slated for February 15, and the Combine will be held February 22-28 in Indianapolis.
"I'll have a short window to get ready for the draft, but then I'll have that whole summer to make a team," Bloom said.
Bloom said he thinks he'd be able to make the biggest impact in the NFL as a punt returner and wide receiver in special situations since he never reached his potential at Colorado.
The 23-year-old Bloom more than lived up to his hype once he starting playing for Colorado. His first punt return of his career came in 2002 and resulted in a 75-yard touchdown against Colorado State. That season, he also had the longest pass reception in Buffaloes history, a 94-yarder against Kansas State.
Bloom averaged 16.2 yards per catch over 22 receptions during the 2003 season with the Buffaloes. He was also the team's main kickoff and punt return specialist, running back a kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown.
"I would think as long as I'm playing, I wouldn't be skiing," said Bloom, who has been a Broncos fan his entire life. "I want to be running routes all year long. I would want to be training for football all year, which I've never done."
For now though, the focus is on the Olympics. Four years ago, the talk was also about his future in football, but Bloom finished ninth in moguls at the Salt Lake City Games.
"When I was 19, I wanted to just conquer the world. I wanted to win all the gold medals," Bloom quipped. "I wanted to beat everyone. That's not what it's about for me now. I've matured past that and realized there are much more important things in life. What drives me is the challenge within myself."
Bloom, a two-time World Cup moguls champ, has other things to think about as well, possibly a modeling or acting career. He's been featured in a national television ad for Under Armour, had a 10-page layout in the November 2004 issue of GQ and was the cover boy for Abercrombie & Fitch's 2004 Christmas catalog. He was also voted one of the "Sexiest Men in Sports" by Sports Illustrated for Women in 2002 and Cosmo Girl "Eye Candy" in 2003.
"It's not something that would ever take away from my training, a photo shoot or something like that," Bloom. "There's a fine balance, but I'm an athlete, that's what I love to do. I try not to pay attention to the other aspects, but try to choose the best ones for myself."
Freestyle moguls has become one of the more popular sports at the Olympics and each year athletes push the envelope with speed and new techniques, risking their bodies for the sake of international glory.
However, Bloom, who loves the dare associated with the sport, said given his choice, he'd rather be on the gridiron.
"Skiing is primarily a recreational sport in this country. Football, you have all these teammates, the pressures, the rivalry, 80,000 people screaming, the motion, that thrill," Bloom said. "I can't find that in skiing."
- Eric Gold, Olympic Staff Writer