November 29, 2005

Freestyle-skiing Bloom yearns for NFL career

By Steve Ginsburg

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Reuters) - Jeremy Bloom is a World
Cup skiing champion, a magazine cover boy with striking good
looks and the darling of Madison Avenue advertisers.

Despite this abundance of fame and fortune, the 23-year-old
American is missing the one thing he craves most: a career in
the National Football League (NFL).

"Competitively, I feel like I've done it in skiing," said
Bloom, twice World Cup moguls freestyle champion. "If I'd look
back on my career in skiing I'd have a huge smile on my face.

"With football, it's the unknown right now. It's like
there's that last missing block. Kind of like, 'What if? Make
it? Not make it?' I need to answer that question."

Bloom played for two years at Colorado University but was
forced to quit because of a National Collegiate Athletic
Association (NCAA) regulation that prohibited him from
accepting ski-related sponsorship money while playing football
as an amateur.

"The NCAA can't continue to turn a cold shoulder on these
athletes because it's not fair," said Bloom.

"You can make a great living riding a BMX bike. And kids do
that. But those same kids are still playing baseball, they're
still playing football and so you're going to run into a
situation just like me.

Despite his abbreviated college football career, the
five-foot nine-inch (1.75-meter), 170-pound (77-kg) Bloom was a
freshman All-America football pick and gained a reputation as a
player who made things happen.

His first punt return was a 75-yard touchdown against
Colorado State and a 94-yard scoring reception against Kansas
State remains the longest in school history.


"What makes Jeremy so valuable are his mental toughness and
competitiveness," said Colorado coach Gary Barnett. "He's got a
great ability to accelerate and change directions, things that
you need at this level.

"He's a big-play guy. They're hard to find. They're like
eagles. They don't flock. You find them one at a time."

Bloom won six straight events en route to winning the 2005
World Cup moguls championship and has his sights set on a gold
medal at February's Winter Olympics in Turin.

However, what really excites Bloom is the NFL combine in
Indianapolis, which gets underway just one week after the Turin
moguls event.

"Fortunately, they moved the combine back a week and if I'm
lucky enough to make the Olympic team I'll be able to fly
back," said Bloom, unfazed about having to work out for NFL
scouts so soon after the Games.

"I'll have a short window to get into the draft but then
I'll have that whole summer to get ready to make a team."

Gil Brandt, who evaluated the draft talent for the Dallas
Cowboys for nearly three decades, does not believe Bloom will
have missed out by not playing four years at Colorado.

"When you can run fast and return punts, I don't think they
care how much experience you have had," said Brandt. "This is
not a quarterback position."

Brandt thinks Bloom could go anywhere from the fourth to
seventh rounds of the NFL draft.

"He will probably be a second-day choice as a kick
returner," Brandt said. "He's very, very good. In high school,
he was kind of all-everything. Everybody's looking for someone
who can create big plays."


Bloom, who once featured in a spread in stylish GQ
magazine, said his eclectic interests would not harm his
chances of Olympic success.

"It's not something that would ever take away from my
training -- a photo shoot or something like that," he said. "As
far as being a pop culture icon, obviously I take some things
that come my way but I turn down more than I accept.

"But it is also important for my sponsors to do those
things and stay in the public's eye."

Bloom attended a recent media summit for the U.S. Olympic
team but conceded that being away from his former football team
mates on the Colorado Buffaloes was tough.

"This is the worst time of year, as far as missing the
sport. I was at homecoming...when the CU Buffs kicked the crap
out of the Aggies (41-20 over Texas A&M). I was on the
sidelines and I just wanted to put the pads on.

"Skiing is such an individual sport. That's good and that's
bad. In skiing you win, you don't really have anyone to
celebrate with. You just kind of pat yourself on the back.

"But in football, we'd go into the locker room and sing the
fight song. There would be so much energy in the room. You can
carry that on into the next week and that was something I would
really like."

A reporter told Bloom it appeared obvious he enjoyed
football more than skiing. At first, Bloom tried to deny it. He
then stopped in mid-sentence.

"To truthfully answer your question, I love football,"
Bloom said. "Skiing is primarily a recreation sport in this
country. And that's fine.

"Football, you have team mates and pressures and rivalry
and 80,000 people screaming. That emotion and that thrill I
just can't find in skiing."