- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 16, 2006

SAUZE d’OULX, Italy — Jeremy Bloom is a football player again. But this time he is a football player only — for the time being and perhaps longer.

For Bloom, who played two years at the University of Colorado as a receiver and kick returner, there will be no more divided loyalties, no dual careers, no questions about priorities.

He is off to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, which starts Wednesday. There, Bloom will try to put on a better show than he did yesterday at the Winter Olympics. Without a medal, his luggage will be a little lighter than he had hoped and many had expected.

Bloom, highly touted and well-publicized, turned in an admittedly disappointing performance in the men’s moguls yesterday. The 2005 World Cup champion, Bloom finished sixth with a score of 25.17 behind gold medal winner Dale Begg-Smith of Australia (26.77).

One American, however, won a medal as Toby Dawson (26.30) took the bronze. Finland’s Mikko Ronkainen (26.62) won the silver medal.

Two other Americans, Travis Mayer, who won the silver in 2002, and Travis Cabral finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

In what probably was his last competition on skis, Bloom landed poorly on his second jump, which placed him fourth and out of the medals running. “I knew I had made a mistake,” he said.

Leading up to the Games, Bloom, who finished ninth in Salt Lake City in 2002, reiterated that the competition was more important than the result.

“For me, there’s really no bigger honor than to represent our country in the Olympics and walk in the opening ceremony,” Bloom said last week.

“A lot of that gets lost in our celebrity-crazed culture, the constant desire to win and get gold medals. It’s truly not about who finishes first but the experience and the camaraderie.”

That was his story, and he stuck to it throughout.

“This may be my last mogul competition, and if so, I’ll look back on it with a huge smile on my face,” he said yesterday. “I’ve had more success in this sport than I ever dreamed possible. It’s just been an amazing ride, and I don’t think a medal here would have affected that at all.”

Now it’s on to the NFL and an uncertain future. According to some league officials, Bloom has a chance to be drafted, probably in the later rounds.

Bloom is lightning fast. In two seasons at Colorado, he recorded six touchdowns of 75 yards or longer. But at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, there are real concerns about his size. He likens himself to diminutive NFL stars Steve Smith and Santana Moss, but he undoubtedly will have to get bigger and stronger.

There also is the question of how he will be affected by an absence from football of more than two years. Bloom played at Colorado in 2002 and 2003 before the NCAA ruled he could not accept endorsement money from his ski sponsors.

Bloom and his family fought the NCAA and lost. Bloom then decided to give up football for two years while focusing on his ski career. During that time, he became one of the most famous U.S. Olympic athletes. He is well-spoken and has the kind of looks that earned him mention in Sports Illustrated for Women’s “Sexiest Men in Sports.”

It’s doubtful, though, that any of that can help him now.

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