Bloom switches gears from skiing to football

Saturday, February 25, 2006

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeremy Bloom walked to the podium Friday wearing the appropriate attire and buoyed by excitement at finally getting a chance to play football.

Or at least work out at it.

His gray sweat shirt had the usual NFL scouting combine lettering "WO 8," while his blue sweat pants were words that don't fit the NFL: "USA Team 2006."

Welcome to double duty, Olympian.

"Oh man, I'm on top of the world," Bloom said, three days after arriving in Indianapolis to chase his other passion -- football. "I dreamed big as a kid, but I never dreamed that in a span of one week, I'd be competing in the Olympics and at the NFL combine."

Bloom finished sixth in the Olympic moguls last week in Turin, Italy. By Friday, he was undergoing the usual routine of the medical checks, poking and prodding that more than 300 invitees endure in Indy.

The difference for Bloom: He may be the unlikeliest NFL prospect in town.

Bloom hasn't played football in two years, since losing an eligibility battle with the NCAA after accepting endorsement money to fund his freestyle skiing career -- a decision that still irks him.

"Football has been a huge passion of mine since I was a kid, and, unfortunately, I had it taken away from me by the NCAA," he said. "But they're not in the building today."

Bloom appeared to be suffering from jet lag. He appeared tired as he asked reporters what day it was and jokingly wondered whether it was 3 a.m. when it was really midafternoon.

His whirlwind travels included a trip to a shoe store where he finally found a pair of cleats so he could run the 40-yard dash today.

On Friday, it was more mundane. He measured in at 5 feet,9 inches and 173 pounds, tiny by NFL standards -- even for a wide receiver or punt returner. He said he hopes to add about 15 pounds before his personal workout in California, and answered questions for about 15 minutes, explaining why he looked so small.

"That's my ski weight," he said. "Skiing is kind of a bell curve of speed and weight, so I have to basically starve myself to get to 170."

Bloom said he wouldn't trade the Olympic experience -- despite failing to medal in Turin. He doesn't even consider the result a disappointment.

But now it's time to turn the page, to begin a new career and to show the world he's more than an Olympic skier.

"This is America and football is the big daddy in this culture," he said. "Competitive skiing is really not on the radar here.

"There's only one way to prove my commitment to football and that's with my work ethic on the field. I don't see myself going back to skiing because I've accomplished everything I wanted to and more. This is my challenge now."

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