When former Florida Gator running back Jeff Demps entered the NFL, the Bucs were one of the teams most interested in his services. Demps eventually chose to sign with New England, but was traded to Tampa Bay, together with a seventh round pick, in exchange LeGarrette Blount.
Of course, what made this trade unusual was that the Bucs didn't know whether the player they were getting in the deal would even show up to training camp. As we all know, when he's not playing football, Demps likes to spend his down time representing the United States in various competitions as a track star, helping his country claim silver in the 4x100 relay at the London Olympics (though Demps didn't actually race in the final - but he did help them get there by racing in the semi-final).
Demps, who appeared in two games for the Bucs before being placed on injured reserve, is not the only Olympian in the NFL; discuss thrower (and fellow countryman of mine) Lawrence Okoye decided to give the gridiron a go, signing with the 49ers, though he was placed on IR during the preseason.
It is conceivable, though, that there will be other Olympians who find their way into the NFL; not only as athletes from other disciplines, as with Demps or Okoye, but players who represent their countries at the Olympics in the sport of American football.
It may seem an unrealistic idea, but today it came one step closer, as the International Olympic Committee recognised , on a provisional basis, the sport's official international governing body, the International Federation of American Football.
IFAF, a partner of the NFL, regulates American football federations in 64 different countries across every continent. Its most prominent member federation is USA Football, which no doubt you all will have at least heard of (thanks to those 'make sure your coach is Heads Up certified' spots on NFL Network, if nothing else), but has among its other members has federations in countries as varied as Tonga, Kuwait, Uruguay... the list goes on. It has member federations in 33 different countries in Europe alone.
The most important member federation, though, is that belonging to Nigeria, which was established in 2011 (by then-Buccaneer Frank Okam, among other NFL players of Nigerian descent). Currently the lone national federation in Africa, though there are other countries across the continent playing the sport, the establishment of an African federation meant that, by having representation in each continent, American football finally met the eligibility criteria to be recognised by the IOC.
The IOC responded by declining not to recognise American football back in May of this year.
Undeterred, IFAF reapplied for recognition, and this time round, was granted provisional recognition - though what those provisions are is not known at this point. Without question, seeing American football in the Olympics is still a long way off - for one thing, would it be part of the Summer or Winter Olympics? Would NFL players find the pride of representing their country worth the risk to their careers, or would it be the domain of college players who weren't good enough to get an invite to training camps hoping to put up something on tape that might earn him (or her?) a shot with a team? Even basic questions - tackle or flag? - would require years of investigation before there can be any discussion on whether American football could ever be contested in the Olympics.
But on December 10th, 2013, the first significant step in that direction was taken by the IOC. Jeff Demps may not be the last player we see in a Buccaneer uniform with an Olympic medal on his mantelpiece.