Bloom's Wild Ride
Saturday, February 25, 2006

By Nick Wagoner
Senior Writer

INDIANAPOLIS – You’ll have to excuse Jeremy Bloom if he isn’t quite sure where he is. If he doesn’t know what day it is, well, that’s excusable too. And don’t even bother him with unimportant matters such as the time of day.

That’s because the past week and a half has been nothing short of a blur for the former Colorado receiver and Olympic skier. In the past five days, Bloom has spent time finishing sixth in the freestyle skiing moguls at the Turin Winter Olympics, flown back to California, bought some hard to find size 9.5 cleats and traveled to Indianapolis for this week’s combine, where he will participate in every workout.

And while Bloom is still recovering from the effects of the jet lag of his many Gulliver-like travels, don’t feel sorry for him. He certainly doesn’t.

“I’m on top of the world right now,” Bloom said. “I guess I’ll start off by saying that I dreamed big as a kid, but I never thought in a million years that in a span of week I would be able to compete in the Olympics and then be at the NFL combine. I am humbled to be here. I am very excited. The sport of football is something that has been a huge passion of mine ever since I can remember walking. Unfortunately it was taken from me by the NCAA, but they aren’t in the building today. I am ready to get started.”

When Bloom says he is on top of the world, it’s because, for once, he isn’t on top of a mountain, but on a football field. That might not seem like much, but for Bloom it’s everything considering how long it has taken him to get back on to the football field.

Bloom was robbed of his college eligibility by the NCAA in 2004 after he refused to give up endorsement opportunities he had gained through his skiing exploits. It was a tough pill to swallow for a player who had shown such promise as a receiver and returner for two years at Colorado.

The NCAA’s actions led to Bloom suing the NCAA for reinstatement. He lost. Bloom was forced to walk away from the game he loved and turned his attention to the Olympics. Still, Bloom carries with him the scars of the NCAA’s ruling, though he refuses to take his frustration out on college’s governing body, even if it is just a few blocks from the RCA Dome.

“I am staying far away from that building,” Bloom said, only half joking.

Even if he wanted to, Bloom likely wouldn’t have time to go down to NCAA headquarters to give them a piece of his mind. Bloom has been constantly on the go since returning from Italy and traveling to Indianapolis.

Bloom has had little time to prepare for the combine, spending his time before the Olympics training to ski and having only a day and half upon his return to prepare to come to Indianapolis.

That will likely make Bloom’s efforts more difficult when he steps on the field Sunday. But that isn’t putting a damper on Bloom’s spirits.

“To me the NFL combine is a place for competition with the most eyes, the most people,” Bloom said. “I don’t want to come here and not compete. I know I might have a bit of a disadvantage. Sometimes you wake up on gameday and don’t feel great; you have still got to play.”

But Bloom has been waking up at the combine feeling nothing but great. While he stops just short of announcing his retirement from skiing, Bloom is well aware that he might have skied for the final time.

As he prepares for his interviews with teams, Bloom knows that he probably will have something in his contract that will prevent him from skiing. Even if he is one of the best in the world, most teams probably won’t like the idea of risking his future and, more important, their money on the dangers of a slippery slope.

Bloom understands that possibility and is OK with it.

"I think Winslow took care of any of that stuff," Bloom said. "But, yeah, I would expect that and I would be fine with that."

And by Winslow, Bloom means Cleveland tight end Kellen Winslow II, who tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in a 2004 motorcycle accident, an injury that cost him all of last year.

Bloom isn’t likely to be a high first-round pick like Winslow was a couple of years ago and is projected to go sometime in the middle rounds. Although he never got much of an opportunity to show his receiving skills, Bloom was a dynamic returner for the Buffaloes, returning a pair of punts for touchdowns.

At 5’9, 173 pounds, Bloom says he is in skiing shape now, but hopes to play around 185 pounds. Since he can’t help his height like his weight, Bloom looks to NFL stars Steve Smith and Santana Moss as inspiration for the undersized receiver.

“I think as far as when you watch my tape from Colorado, the most success I had was from a punt return standpoint,” Bloom said. “Punt returning and kick returning comes very natural to me. I didn’t feel like I got the opportunity to really make an impact on the offense. That’s where my goals lie. I don’t want to draw any type of comparison at all, other than the fact that Steve Smith is one of my heroes and idols in the league – what he has done at his size…I think five-10 years ago for people in the NFL to allow him to be the guy, I don’t think it would have happened. I’m coming in at a good time with people open to the possibility of the 5’9, 5’10 Santana Moss kind of guy. I hope to follow in their footsteps.”

While waiting for that opportunity, Bloom is soaking in every moment of the combine as the most revered potential mid-round pick to grace the RCA Dome in some time. He even has some of the bigger stars on hand telling him how much they admire what he has done.

“Most of them want to know what it’s like to be in the Olympics,” Bloom said. “For me, people are asking like LenDale White or being in the same room with Matt Leinart or Vince Young, I have to pinch myself. I’m like ‘Hey, what’s up?’ and they are like ‘I got mad respect for you.’ I’m like ‘I have got tons of respect for you.’”

And that respect will only grow as Bloom gets his opportunity to prove himself to the football world. For now, Bloom is focusing on that prospect and not worrying about what time it is.

“What’s today, Friday?” Bloom asked in all seriousness.

No, that time doesn’t matter much. For Jeremy Bloom, it’s time to pursue another dream.