Demps Can't Wait To Start Hitting Again

Wednesday afternoon, when Jonathon Demps thought the trainers weren't looking, he tried to give Cornelius Ingram a little pop when he came across the middle. Nothing too hard, mind you, just something to let him know that the day is approaching very soon when Jonathon Demps will be back to his old self and that means delivering hard hits to anyone that dares to come across the middle.

"I tried to sneak in a hit to CI today but the trainers caught me," said Demps, a 6-4, 230-pound sophomore linebacker from Pensacola who was one of the gems of Coach Urban Meyer's first recruiting class at the University of Florida. "It's killing me that my boys are all out there getting to hit somebody and I'm having to wait for the trainers to give me the okay."

Demps was on his way to significant playing time last fall when he tore an ACL at midseason. He had surgery and spent the rest of the year rehabbing. His rehabilitation has gone quite well --- "I'm ahead of schedule in every phase," he said --- but he won't be allowed to do full contact drills until he gets the okay from the training staff.

"I might be able to hit the last week of spring practice and that's good because I'm going crazy watching everybody else hit," he said.

This was the first serious injury he's ever had and the first few days after it happened were the worst. He admits he had all sorts of doubts and concerns but once he had the surgery and began the rehabilitation process.

"The mental part is the really tough part," he said. "It's really tough when you're working hard trying to get back to where you used to be and you can't do the things you used to do. It comes back to you slowly, but it never gets back as fast as you want it to.

"You keep saying to yourself 'I'm gonna bounce back quick' but sometimes you have to be patient. The trainers tell me I'll be stronger than I've ever been when all this is over, but it's tough getting there.

"The one thing I've done is work as hard as I can physically and mentally try to stay on top by watching film and studying my playbook. I have to make sure I don't fall off on that part so even though I missed games and practice, when I do come back it's all snap, snap, right in place for me."

He admits to some anxious moments during the rehab process. He will be working hard in the weight room or doing some agility drills when something pops in his knee. Always it's the same initial reaction.

"I'll be doing some rehab or shuttle press when something pops on me," he said. "First thing you always think 'Oh Lord! I've torn it again' but then a minute or two passes and the pain goes away. It's okay then. It's a sharp, stabbing kind of pain but that happens less and less now so I know I'm almost back."

He's stayed on top of his school work and he's found a good social niche in Gainesville, too. He was the subject of an intense recruiting battle between Florida and Florida State but there isn't any doubt in his mind that he chose the right school.

"I'm really happy here," he said. "I'm going good with school work and I love being on this team. This is the right place for me to be, no question about it."

He's friends with several basketball players and he admits there's a bit of jealousy now.

"They've got a championship and that's something I want," he said. "That's something our whole team wants. We're making it our goal to do the same thing the basketball team did. We think about it every day."

Back during the fall, there were regular bowling matches between football players and basketball players and it was a time when there was plenty of good-natured trash talking going on.

"We used to go bowling with them all the time back during our season in the fall," Demps said. "We'd always be saying 'who's the best?' Who's the best?' Then we'd beat them but now they've got a championship and we don't. Bowling doesn't beat that."

He watched the NCAA championship game last Monday at a teammate's house but he didn't venture onto University Avenue for the celebration that lasted long into the night when the Gators beat UCLA.

"I'm happy that my friends on the basketball team and my school got a championship," he said. "I'll save the celebration for when we [football team] get one, too. I hope it won't be too long from now."

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