Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFL [Print without images]

Thursday, August 11, 2005
One expert believes Bloom will be picked in rounds 4-7

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Jeremy Bloom is used to bumps in the road. In fact, he lives for them.

For the past six years, the U.S. moguls standout has made a living traversing treacherous hillsides, and won World Cup championships in the process.

The problem is, those mounds of snow aren't nearly as tough as they used to be. After training nonstop the past two years for the Turin Games, the former Colorado football star is aching for a different challenge.

"I don't feel I have anything to prove in skiing," Bloom said. "If I walked away today, I'd do it with a smile on my face.

"In football...," he pauses, "there's one more level."

That, of course, is the NFL -- and unlike everything else Bloom has accomplished in his 23 years, it's no sure thing.

Bloom was in New York on Wednesday, making the talk-show rounds to mark the six-month countdown to the Winter Olympics. But he couldn't resist talking about his plans afterward. He's been training at UCLA all summer, working with former Colorado assistant Doc Kreis on speed and conditioning drills in the hopes of getting picked in April's NFL draft and returning kicks on Sundays next season.

An atypical regimen for an Olympic gold-medal favorite, to say the least.

"Could it be more beneficial for me to be skiing? Maybe, but that's not what I want to do right now," Bloom said. "I love being in the gym, I love doing plyometrics, I love running routes, I love catching the football."

It's not that Bloom is taking the Olympics for granted after competing in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games (he placed ninth).

It's that he harbors an unquenchable thirst for competition. And after a record six straight World Cup victories last year, Bloom wants to prove -- to himself and to his doubters -- that he can have the same kind of success on the football field.

He wasn't given that chance in college.

After two highlight-filled seasons at Colorado, the NCAA stripped the dazzling kick returner of his eligibility in 2004 when he refused to give up his skiing endorsements. Those paychecks were the only way Bloom could train for the 2006 games, so he begrudgingly set aside his cleats.

Not anymore. What ever happens in Turin, he'll walk away from the sport he's come to dominate with no regrets.

"In athletics, so many people have these performance-setting goals -- like 'I want to win a gold medal,'" Bloom said. "For me, I go back to the basics. Everyday, whether I'm in the weight room or doing football, my one goal is 'What did I do to improve today?'"

Bloom has to hope that NFL teams are willing to think outside the box, as he does. Especially about his 5-foot-9 height.

"They told me that about college," Bloom said. "'You're going to get hurt, you're too small, you're not going to play.' I love people like that, it inspires me to do it even more."

NFL draft guru Gil Brandt expects Bloom to be drafted between the fourth and seventh rounds. But who knows, some team could fall in love with his workouts and grab him on the first day.

"The things that make a good punt returner or kick returner is if you have really quick acceleration and can change directions real well," Brandt said. "[Lions receiver] Roy Williams is one of the fastest, and he's just like Roy. He's full speed in one step."

Brandt said that Bloom was clocked at 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash in 2003. During his short stint at Colorado, Bloom had five touchdowns of 75 yards or longer -- including a 94-yard reception his freshman year.

"He's got a special talent, whether he's skiing black diamonds, or running back kicks," Brandt said.

Bloom, who grew up in Loveland, Colo., has dreamt of playing for the Denver Broncos since he was 5 years old.

"Watching John Elway in Colorado, that goal was actually born before skiing," Bloom said. "But the NFL is such a business. Obviously, I would LOVE to play for the Broncos, but I would also love to play for anyone who drafts me."

Whoever ends up with Bloom will be hard-pressed to find a more determined player. After years of bouncing down mountains, NFL training camp is exactly the sort of uphill battle Bloom is craving.

"It's going to take a lot of fuel," Bloom said. "Getting ready to take the punishment, getting back in football shape. The commitment is huge."

That's the idea.