By STEVE KING
AS A YOUNGSTER at Conrad Ball Middle School in Loveland, Colo., Jeremy Bloom was always told he'd never be able to play multiple sports once he got to high school.
He proved that wrong, balancing football, skiing, track and field and karate.
At 15, Bloom became the youngest person to join the U.S. freestyle ski team. As a senior, he earned all-state honors in football as a wide receiver and helped lead Loveland High to a state title.
But surely, no college coach would allow one of its football players to ski on an Olympic level and play football.
That was the opinion of several of his peers, teachers and coaches, but not Bloom.
"He just never believed it," Bloom's mother, Char, said of her son, who is entering his second season with the Eagles after being selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft out of the University of Colorado. "I think that was a function of us as a family, believing that we can do anything if we worked hard enough at it and had a passion for it."
Proving doubters wrong has become a lifelong theme for Bloom. Now he's ready to take on his next obstacle as he enters training camp fighting for more than a special-teams role on the Eagles' roster this season.
Although Bloom missed the entire 2006 season after being placed on injured reserve with a hamstring injury suffered during training camp, his passion and determination forced him to get in better football shape. Bloom admits he was stubborn last year, feeling as if he could play through injury, constantly believing he was in better physical shape than he actually was. He quickly realized the difference between skiing shape and football shape.
"Compared to this time last year, it's like night and day," Bloom said after the
Eagles' wrapped up their first minicamp Monday at the NovaCare Complex. "If I
had taken the appropriate time off last year, I would have been fine. It's all a
learning experience, and one that I am glad I went through because I feel as if
I am a totally new player this year."
It wasn't Bloom's 458 yards on 24 receptions in two seasons (2002, '03) at Colorado that made him a household name in his home state. It was what he was doing on the slopes at ski resorts across the country and around the world that was giving him notoriety.
Bloom, who started skiing under the instruction of his mother at the Keystone Mountain Resort in Colorado when he was 11, was the No. 1 ranked men's moguls skier in the world by the time he was 19. He won the 2002 U.S. nationals and placed ninth at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. Consider too that he hosted his own television show on MTV and was a model for Tommy Hilfiger Jeans alongside President Bush's niece, Lauren, Bloom was already a full-time celebrity before he could legally drink.
Despite the exposure, Bloom said he never felt any pressures to live up the hype, and that remains true now as he focuses solely on football. He said he has learned to deal with the pressures that arise in football from competing under stress as a skier.
"Pressure is just an outside force going against you," Bloom said. "As long as you can stay within yourself and do what it is you know you can do, pressure will never affect you."
After being ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA for accepting ski-endorsement deals, Bloom continued to dominate the slopes for another 2 years, winning the 2005 World Cup overall championship and tying the record for the most consecutive World Cup wins, with six.
It was his dominance in one sport that reopened his passion for another. By the end of the 2006 Winter Olympics, where he finished sixth in moguls, Bloom had affirmed football as his top priority despite just 2 years of collegiate experience. He then began a quest toward his new challenge, the NFL.
"Jeremy doesn't do anything less than 150 percent," his mom said. "He has such a huge determination. Sometimes I wonder where he gets it from. I don't know anyone who has his type of drive inside or outside our family."
It sometimes amazes Char when she looks back and recalls the way Jeremy was able to balance a competitive athletic schedule, a superior social life and his school work as a youth. She said through all of his activities, the youngest of her three children, just wanted to be a normal child. He even turned down an opportunity to attend Lowell Whiteman, a prestigious boarding school in Steamboat Springs, Colo., which most full-time Olympic skiers attend, so he could be closer to his family and friends.
"That's the way he's always been," Char said. "We never pushed him to do any particular sport. In fact, I would have loved for him to have taken some time off."
Bloom said the absence of input from his family circle helped him, as he was able to make his own decisions at a young age.
"A lot of times you see so many parents with talented kids and they get overly involved with them, putting all this pressure on them, and the kid gets burned out and doesn't want to do it anymore," Bloom said.
While Bloom hasn't followed the typical route to the NFL, he believes he can take the things he learned from his time on the slopes and incorporate them on the football field, even though he hasn't played in a game since 2003.
"A lot of guys who are involved in a team sport are only motivated by another person's actions or someone else telling them to do something," Bloom said. "I'm a very self-motivated person.''
First-year special-teams coordinator Rory Segrest said Bloom came into minicamp last week looking physically stronger and more mentally ready than he did last year.
"[Bloom] has come a long way,'' he said. "You can just see the strides he is making out there as far as fielding the ball goes. He has some great athletic ability and we're very excited about putting him out there in some live situations this year."
The coaches won't be the only ones eager to see him on the field. Jeremy's brother, Jordan, will start medical school at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in the fall. With an aunt and uncle already living in the Philadelphia area, Bloom is sure to have a strong support cast once the team reports to Lehigh at the end of July.
At 5-9, 180, Bloom says he wants to help the team in more ways than just on special teams, even if it takes some time. He says he has improved his route running and understanding of the game to the point where he feels he can compete for a receiving position.
"I know it's not in my control as far as where I'm going to line up, but what is in my control is for me to go out there and show them what I can do, period," Bloom said. "I know we have a lot of talented receivers so it's totally in their hands. All I can do is show up at practice everyday, work my hardest and prove myself."
Something he's been doing all his life. *