The year 2021 marked the first time the NCAA allowed college athletes to profit from their name, image, and likeness.
For Jeremy Bloom, that decision came about two decades too late.
Bloom was a talented athlete who competed as a skier in two Olympic Games and played college football for the University of Colorado.
While starring as a speedy special teams ace and receiver for the Buffaloes, the NCAA told Bloom that he could no longer receive endorsements to pay for his skiing career.
The endorsement money violated the organization’s policy against student-athletes receiving improper benefits as amateurs.
Bloom took the NCAA to court over the matter but lost.
Remarkably, even though he was primarily a return specialist in college, the Philadelphia Eagles drafted Bloom in 2006.
Skier / Return Specialist
Philadelphia Eagles (2006-2007) pic.twitter.com/kkdEaOZrDk
— Random Philly Athletes (@philly_athletes) June 26, 2022
Although his NFL career didn’t pan out, Bloom became a role model for young athletes in the business community and pushed for reforms to the NCAA’s archaic policies.
This is the story of Jeremy Bloom.
Growing Up in Colorado
Jeremy Bloom was born in Fort Collins, Colorado on April 2, 1982.
— The Sporting News Archives (@sportsphotos) April 2, 2014
Bloom and his two older siblings, including his sister, Molly, took up skiing at an early age thanks to their mother, Charlene, a ski instructor.
Colorado was a good place to learn the sport, filled with snow-capped peaks and ski resorts.
The Bloom children practiced religiously, and the hard work soon paid off.
When he was 15, Jeremy made the U.S. Ski Team, becoming the youngest male freestyle skier to do so.
Meanwhile, Molly was seriously injured while preparing for the Olympics and quit the sport to attend college.
After graduating from the University of Colorado, Molly moved to L.A. and was introduced to the world of high-stakes gambling.
She would become known for organizing illegal poker games for celebrities and wealthy clients in Los Angeles and New York City.
The movie Molly's Game is a true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target, and she's Jeremy Bloom's sister. . pic.twitter.com/izYpKo1xO5
— Gil Whiteley (@Gilfest) December 30, 2017
Molly Bloom later wrote a book about her experiences titled Molly’s Game, and in 2017, filmmaker Aaron Sorkin adapted the book into a movie starring Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba.
While Molly was living a life she never expected, Jeremy was about to embark on a sports career he could never have imagined.
Bound for the Olympics
When Jeremy Bloom was still in elementary school, he and his family watched the 1992 Olympic Games.
Bloom was struck by the athleticism and patriotism of the Olympics and declared to his parents that he wanted to compete in the Games when he was older.
The family regularly consumed Denver Broncos games as well, leading little Jeremy to also state his intentions to play in the NFL.
Competing in both sports at a high level was nearly impossible, especially at the same time, but the Bloom parents gave their boy a thumbs up.
As he was competing for the U.S. Ski Team, Bloom was also playing football and track at Loveland High School, where he helped the Red Wolves win state championships in both sports.
For good measure, he achieved the rank of black belt in Taekwondo.
Between his ski competitions and prep sports, Bloom was a well-oiled machine.
According to Scott Rawles, Bloom’s ski coach, Jeremy was, “the best-trained athlete out there,” thanks to his track and football success. Additionally, “he had the mental attitude over everyone,” said Rawles.
By the time he was ready to graduate from high school, Bloom was on track to compete in the 2002 Olympic Games.
He had already competed well in the USA Championships and was ranked as the best men’s freestyle skier in the world, specializing in moguls.
Competing in the Olympic Games isn’t cheap.
However, Bloom was confident in his skills and approached potential sponsors with ease.
“He had this infectious positive attitude,” said former U.S. Ski Team member Trace Worthington. “A lot of us would sit around and joke, ‘What doesn’t Jeremy Bloom do great?’”
Bloom’s first goal as a child was realized when he competed in the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
Jeremy Bloom for Wednesday's show. Jeremy is a 2x Olympic & World Champion Freestyle Skier, a former CFB/NFL football player. We stream live on our Facebook feed starting at 1pm Eastern Time. You can send us questions via our Facebook Feed or to our email [email protected] pic.twitter.com/yx5jowSCZT
— Drive To Gold (@DriveToGold) March 3, 2021
It couldn’t have worked out better as his dream took place only hours away from where Bloom grew up.
Unfortunately, during the Games, Bloom finished ninth in the freestyle skiing/moguls event.
He wasn’t too distraught, though, as barely a month later, Bloom traveled to Finland for the World Championships and won the moguls title.
He also vowed to compete in the 2006 Olympics.
Bloom Transitions to Football
Part two of Bloom’s life goals began in earnest months after the World Championships.
After a high school senior year that saw Bloom catch 48 passes for more than 1,200 yards and 12 touchdowns, he received a slew of honors including first-team All-State, All-Area, and SuperPrep awards.
Colorado, Colorado State, and Wyoming were Bloom’s top three choices to play college football, each one conveniently located near a ski resort.
Bloom chose to attend the University of Colorado just as his sister, Molly, had before him.
After picking a school, Bloom decided not to begin his college football career in 2001 so he could concentrate on preparing for the upcoming Winter Games.
When he arrived for spring drills with the Buffaloes in 2002, his new teammates noticed his talents immediately.
Colorado, Wide Receiver 2002-2003 pic.twitter.com/CE6kro5YgN
— Random College Athletes (@RandomAthletess) May 11, 2021
There had been doubters who told Bloom that his small 5’9” frame wouldn’t hold up to the pounding in college ball.
He transitioned by putting on weight, which would have to come off again when he competed in ski events.
“I had to radically change my body for each season,” explained Bloom. “Mentally, however, doing both sports was an advantage. When I was ending football season, my skiing competitors were coming off eight months with no competition. Mentally, I was so sharp and ready to jump back in.”
His weight didn’t seem like an issue as he caught the football and ran back kicks in practice as if he were twice his actual size.
That led Buffaloes quarterback Joel Klatt to declare during preseason drills that Bloom was a big play waiting to happen.
Bloom Provides Huge Plays for the Buffs
Sure enough, in the first game of the 2002 season against Colorado State, head coach Gary Barnett sent in Bloom to return a punt.
Bloom took the field, took the punt, and proceeded to return the ball 75 yards for a touchdown.
A month later, against Kansas State, Bloom corralled his first collegiate reception and weaved through the defense for a 94-yard score.
That marked the longest pass play in Buffs’ history.
During the Big-12 Championship game against the Oklahoma Sooners, Bloom took a punt 80 yards for a touchdown.
With his second punt return touchdown, Bloom became the first CU freshman to return two punts for a score in the same season.
After playing in the Oklahoma game, Bloom made his way to Finland to compete in the FIS World Cup where he won a gold and silver.
Then, he returned to the States to help the Buffs face Wisconsin in the Alamo Bowl.
He returned three punts during the contest.
For his freshman year, Bloom caught two passes for 102 yards and a touchdown and returned 23 punts for 344 yards and two scores.
He was named a Freshman All-American by the FWAA.
Bloom Takes the NCAA to Court
Before playing a down during the 2002 college football season, the NCAA contacted the University of Colorado and Bloom and told them Bloom would have to give up his ski endorsements, public appearances, and modeling career.
According to the NCAA, if he continued taking endorsements from ski sponsors, Bloom would be in violation of college athlete amateurism rules against receiving improper benefits.
In order to continue receiving help to pay for his ski career (and play college football) Bloom sued the NCAA, alleging the governing body had no right to impede his living as a professional skier.
Former Colorado Buffalo football player and US Olympian Jeremy Bloom (@JeremyBloom11) joins The College Football Recruiting Show
📌 How Colorado landed Deion Sanders
📌 How NIL has grown since his lawsuit against the NCAA 20 years ago
— 247Sports (@247Sports) December 8, 2022
After considering both sides of the complaint, a lower court ruled in favor of the NCAA.
Bloom and his attorneys appealed, allowing him to play college football.
While the appeals court was considering Bloom’s case, he played football for the Buffaloes in 2002 and returned for his sophomore year in 2003.
That year, Colorado did not do as well, finishing with only five wins and missing a chance to play in a bowl.
Bloom continued to thrive, though, and had even more highlights on the field.
As a receiver, he caught 22 passes for 356 yards and a touchdown.
Bloom caught at least one pass in 11 games and snagged a timely 33-yard reception against Colorado State that led to the game-winning score.
Just as he did during his freshman year, Bloom continued to thrive on special teams.
Colorado WR Jeremy Bloom pic.twitter.com/CB9xVaTP8L
— Damon Drew | he/him/his (@DamonDrew) June 5, 2019
He returned 24 kicks for a Big 12-leading 589 yards that included an 88-yard kick return for a score against Kansas State.
During a game against Baylor, Bloom set a program single-game record for most return yards (250).
Bloom also returned 24 punts for 289 yards for the year.
After the season, Bloom was named Special Teams Player of the Year in Colorado, won the Bill McCartney Award for special teams contribution, and was selected as a second-team all-Big 12.
Bloom Loses His Case
While Bloom continued to train for both skiing and football in early 2004, the appeals court affirmed the lower court’s ruling in favor of the NCAA.
Just like that, Bloom could no longer play college football.
I tend to stay away from homer picks, but today I’ll go with Colorado burner and NCAA screwjob victim Jeremy Bloom pic.twitter.com/ll6dYmfZnW
— Victor Romero (@victorromero55) July 12, 2018
Although extremely disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to join his teammates, Bloom continued training for his next ski event.
In 2004–2005, he competed in another World Cup event where he won a medal in the moguls.
Bloom also set a world record with six consecutive victories.
2006 Olympics and Bloom Is Drafted by the Eagles
All of Bloom’s hard work paid off when he qualified to compete in the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy.
He was a fan favorite who achieved rock star status before the Games. Bloom was also a favorite to medal in the moguls event.
Unfortunately, he couldn’t succeed on the world’s biggest stage for the second time, finishing in sixth place.
The result crushed Bloom.
“I was an inch away from winning a gold medal,” Bloom said. “When I lost, I was pretty upset. For 48 hours, I relived every moment and obsessed about it. But then I was good to move at 100 mph.”
Shortly after returning to the States, Bloom took part in the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
By then, he had not played football in over two years, though he was in great shape due to his ski training and posted a 4.4 time in the 40-yard dash.
In the 2006 NFL Draft, the Philadelphia Eagles surprised the football world when they selected Bloom with the 147th overall pick in the fifth round, thus helping Bloom realize his second childhood dream.
— SPORTSRADIO 94WIP (@SportsRadioWIP) September 2, 2015
He was also the first winter Olympic skier to be drafted by the NFL.
“That was a high,” Bloom said in 2015 of being drafted by the Eagles. “When I got a call from Andy Reid—my dad grew up in Villanova and went to Lower Merion High School. I have so much family in the area. So just to be able to go back to the area and be part of the Eagles organization for two years really was a dream come true for me.”
During the 2006 training camp, Bloom injured his hamstring, leading the Eagles to place him on injured reserve.
After spending the entire year on the injured list, Bloom returned in 2007.
However, he was cut by the team just before the regular season began.
“We wanted more production out of Jeremy and we didn’t get it,” general manager Tom Heckert said.
Pittsburgh Signs Bloom
In late 2007, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Bloom before their playoff game against Jacksonville.
He remained with the organization through training camp in 2008 but was cut before camp ended.
Darn, the Steelers cut Jeremy Bloom. There's a guy (former Olympic skier & Eagle) you'd like to see do well.
— Amanda S. (@hearsmusic) August 25, 2008
Years later, Bloom would note the difference in leadership styles between Steelers coach Mike Tomlin and then Eagles coach Andy Reid.
“I learned some lessons when I was in Philadelphia of things I didn’t want to duplicate,” Bloom said. “And it’s not a knock on Reid or the organization, it was just an observation of what worked and didn’t for me. So, the organization back then was very top-down in the sense that they motivated by fear. But when I was in Pittsburgh it was the complete opposite,” Bloom continued. “It was a bottom-up organization, it was a collaborative environment and the players were really the leaders in that locker room. And Tomlin did a good job of being brutally honest with people, and to this day he’s really probably one of the best leaders I’ve ever been around.”
Bloom Finds Success in Business
While Bloom was in the NFL, he took advantage of a league program that partnered with the Wharton School to take classes in business and entrepreneurship.
“I noticed a big shift in my life,” he recalls. “I found myself more interested in reading stories about entrepreneurs like Larry Page and Sergey Brin than in working out.”
The lessons Bloom learned at Wharton changed his life and his perspective.
When he was cut by the Steelers, Bloom didn’t fall apart, he simply shifted gears, now ready to tackle the business world.
Our March issue featuring daredevil athlete turned entrepreneur, Jeremy Bloom, is out on newsstands. pic.twitter.com/xGUnDDWO
— Entrepreneur (@Entrepreneur) February 19, 2013
He started a non-profit called the Wish of a Lifetime Foundation that helps seniors realize their dreams by pursuing experiences they never thought possible.
“Our goal is to say thank you to a generation that gave us our independence, pulled us through the Great Depression, literally paved our roads, and shaped the world we live in,” Bloom said.
Bloom also founded Integrate, a company that has excelled in the marketing software industry.
Bloom Comments on NIL
Despite his busy schedule, Bloom was inducted into the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the U.S. Skiing Hall of Fame and has found time to advise various countries in preparing to host Olympic Games and has advocated for Olympic and NCAA athletes.
— Mike Brohard (@mbrohard) October 19, 2016
When the NCAA finally allowed college athletes to accept endorsements for their name, image, and likeness, Bloom was ecstatic.
“This was the crux of my whole battle,” Bloom said in 2020 after learning of the NCAA’s acceptance of NIL. “This is the thing that they have been fighting for the last 50 years. … So it is a monumental day. If this would have happened when I was in school, I could have played my junior and senior year and I could have continued to train for the Olympics,” he said. “It wasn’t (an option), obviously, but I’m happy to contribute, even if it’s a small contribution, to where we are today.”
Although he is still known as a multi-sport superstar who never quite lived up to his potential in the NFL or the Olympics, Bloom sees his life as a success, even without the sports accolades.
“I was so focused on skiing and football and there was a fear of the unknown of what I was going to do after it. That feeling drove me to where I am today,” said Bloom. “My trophy case is doing pretty well. And when I was skiing, those trophies really mattered to me. But as I discovered and feel today, they no longer matter to me.”