BOSTON (CBS) — Bill Belichick’s never been afraid to think outside the box, and he’s proving it once again.
On Friday, the Patriots signed Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps.
Demps, 22, was a running back at Florida from 2008-11. Prior to the NFL draft though, he told teams he was instead choosing to pursue a track career. At the 2012 Olympics in London, he ran for the U.S. in the qualifying heat for the 4×100-meter relay, and he earned a silver medal.
In college, Demps averaged 6.7 yards per carry while scoring 23 rushing touchdowns.
Belichick has made similar moves in the past when it comes to adding a player with a slightly different background. He signed Stephen Neal, a collegiate wrestler who did not play football in college, and he’d go on to play a role on the Pats’ offensive line for a decade. He drafted Julian Edelman, a college quarterback, as a wide receiver, and he also drafted Sebastian Vollmer in the second round, despite many experts questioning the German’s limited football experience.
Demps announced earlier this week that he planned on signing with an NFL team. He reportedly drew interest from several teams.
The deal was first reported by NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.
“Jeff Demps also drew interest from Colts, Jets, Bucs and others,” Rapoport tweeted. “All could’ve spent a [seventh-round pick] on him. May be kicking themselves.”
Demps will join a backfield that currently has Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Danny Woodhead and rookie Brandon Bolden on the depth chart as primary ball carriers. Fullbacks Eric Kettani and Spencer Larsen are also on the roster at fullback.
Demps also returned kicks in college, averaging 28.8 yards per kick return in his 21 attempts (one touchdown).