Versatile Demps steps up for Arizona

By Eric Wein

Arizona Daily Wildcat

To the average onlookers, Thomas Demps' perfor-mance may not be the most prominent thing they remember from watching Arizona's victory over Georgia Tech last Thursday.

This week, UA coach Dick Tomey mentioned Demps every time he was asked to name positives about the Wildcats' comeback win last week. Tomey said that when the coaching staff graded the players on how they did, Demps was at the top.

But to Demps, a newcomer to the UA defense after taking over the outside linebacker position this season, it doesn't matter.

"To be honest, I don't need it because I don't really like it. I just figured I was going out to do my job," he said. "If it happens, it happens. But I can live without it."

Demps hobbled around the practice field just a week before the opener. He recovered in time to rejoin his teammates to help limit the Yellow Jackets to 20 yards rushing and 214 total yards.

The 6-foot-2, 217-pound junior made just two tackles in the Wildcats' opener, but it takes more than statistics to please coaches. Sustaining a high level of play from the kickoff to the final gun is how they rate it.

And while he may have gotten some compliments this week for his first start, Demps doesn't think he deserves it. He saw a few plays where he faltered.

"I got cut off once or twice," Demps said. "Once, I caught myself loafing on the play. None of the coaches saw it, but I did."

It took several years and even more patience for Demps to come into the position, which is called the flex linebacker in Arizona's eagle-flex defense. After redshirting in 1991, he spent the last two years as a backup linebacker and a member of the special teams.

Looking back, he blames himself for not improving his status sooner.

"Now that I think about it, I could have been playing a lot sooner if I had put more effort into it lifting weights and stuff," Demps said. "I was at college away from home and I was just having fun."

The fourth of six children, Demps was urged by his parents to keep plugging away at football, and that dedication helped him move up in the linebacker mix.

Because the Georgia Tech game was in Atlanta, his parents and two sisters were able to make the shorter trip from Lake Howell, Fla., to see him play. When his father joined him on the sideline during the game, it was a great motivator.

"Along with the coaches, I listen to him and a lot of times they'll say the same thing," Demps said. "A lot of people don't get that lucky, especially when they're this far from home. I think it just kind of played to my hand."

The Wildcats ask more out of their flex linebacker than most defenses do their outside linebacker. His role changes from rushing the quarterback, containing the outside on the run and covering receivers that roam into his territory.

"Man, I'm a jack-of-all-trades," Demps said. "Sometimes I have to play D-Line, sometimes I have to play linebacker, sometimes I have to play DB. You extract a little from here and a little from there and you combine them to come up with one position."

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