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One expert believes Bloom will be picked in rounds 4-7

8/11/2005 - NFL

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.