As the 2015-16 academic and athletic year neared a conclusion, Cody Demps of Sacramento State saw he needed two more classes to obtain his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. This represented a problem to the basketball team’s senior captain. Demps loves his sports, but he realizes that after he’s finished playing the games of youth, a long life of responsibility lies ahead.
Demps, 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, does many things well on the basketball court. This season, he averaged 12.0 points, a figure that probably would have been higher had he not bruised a thigh so badly that it swelled bigger than Herky the Hornet’s head. To the pleasure of the mascot and everybody else associated with Sac State basketball, Demps recovered. He finished with a team-leading 4.7 assists per game and averaged 4.5 rebounds on a team that reached the second round of the Big Sky Conference tournament.
Pro scouts noticed, and Demps learned that he might be able to play for money overseas. What better way to tour Europe than to shoot hoops for a club in France or Italy? One day you’re checking out the Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre, and the next you’re coming off a screen against Orleans Loiret. It beats knocking around the continent with a backpack while showering with strangers in youth hostels. Then again, maybe it doesn’t.
The mysteries of Asia also possibly awaited Demps. But he already had decided to obtain his degree sooner rather than later. Demps would enroll at Sac State in the fall. An athlete at heart and by nature, it was the right decision, but a difficult one for Demps. Then he found out he still had four years of athletic eligibility remaining – in football. Demps decided to use one of them right away. He walked onto the Sac State football team, and in the fall, you’ll see him under a green helmet catching passes as a wide receiver.
People who knew Demps as a two-sport star at Pleasant Grove High School won’t be surprised. It might take them a few moments, though, to get used to his new position. At Pleasant Grove, Demps earned the Delta River League’s co-Offensive Player of the Year award for his play at quarterback as a senior in 2011. That year, he completed 67 percent of his passes for 1,794 yards and 22 touchdowns against only three interceptions, and the Eagles reached the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I final. In 2010,, with Demps at the controls, Pleasant Grove won the D-I title. The Eagles also had defensive lineman Arik Armstead, who now plays for the 49ers.
In basketball, you’re supposed to keep your hands off the other guy. Now, I have to fight with my hands. Hopefully, I’ll be working all summer on it. We’ll see what happens.
Demps’ bloodlines have a little pigskin in them. His dad, Chris, played on the Hornets’ offensive line in the 1980s. His younger brother, Wyatt, caught 27 passes last fall for Nevada. Of course, Sac State coach Jody Sears welcomed Demps when he asked back into the football brotherhood. It took exactly the first pass thrown in Demps’ direction for Sears and the Hornets to see they had a keeper.
“We were in a red-zone situation,” inside the 20-yard line, Sears said. “They threw him a little post in the end zone, and there were two guys vying for the ball. He just went up over them and took it away.”
Long and athletic, Demps did not see much difference between that grab and what he did on the basketball court.
“I just treated it like a rebound, really,” he said. “I just tried to use my athleticism, my height and my jumping ability to try and get to it.”
Over the weekend, Demps publicly displayed his football skills for the first time as a collegian. He got in on about half of the 59 plays in Sac State’s offense-vs.-defense scrimmage on a lovely day at Hornet Stadium, where the snow-capped Sierra outlined against an electric blue April sky made for a less-than-apocalyptic background. Demps caught one pass for six yards, was targeted only a few times and had difficulty gaining separation from defensive backs such as Jordan Thomas, Anthony Payne and Dre Terrell.
But he felt good getting used to the game again.
“Still trying to learn, still trying to get better,” Demps said. “I’m getting used to using my hands again. In basketball, you’re supposed to keep your hands off the other guy. Now, I have to fight with my hands. Hopefully, I’ll be working all summer on it. We’ll see what happens.”
The integrity he brings to the team in the locker room, he has instant credibility.
Hornets football coach Jody Sears, on new wide receiver Cody Demps
Sears loved his ground game Saturday with returning running back Jordan Robinson and incoming freshman Ernie Timoteo breaking long touchdown runs. Sears, meanwhile, praised Demps for his ball skills. He loves him even more for his character, his work ethic, the leadership he will lend. The rest of the team has huge respect for the basketball guy, according to the coach.
“The integrity he brings to the team in the locker room, he has instant credibility,” Sears said.
In the fall, Demps will finish school and catch jump balls in the end zone. When January rolls around, he will see how basketball might sensibly fit in with his life, in the proper order of things.
“I’m just taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I’m just trying to help Sac State football for now. I am thankful for the opportunity.”