VINELAND – In a town bleeding red and gray, there’s only one man who could paint the town blue and gold.

Indigenous son Jamil Demby was honored with his own day by the city of Vineland on Friday.

The member of Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams received a key to the city from Mayor Anthony Fanucci during a ceremony outside City Hall with a crowd of several hundred fans, many of whom dressed in the colors of the rams.

“I’m from Vineland, I grew up playing football, VBA (Vineland Basketball Association, Little League and I’ve been to all the convenience stores and eaten all the pastelillos and empanadas. …as you can see” , the 6-foot-5, 320-pound offensive lineman, said, “I’m as Vineland as it gets.

Many city and county dignitaries spoke at the event, as well as Vineland head football coach Dan Russo and Vineland Midget Football League president Chris Wilson.

Demby has spent very little time talking about his own experiences in professional football, including two trips to the Super Bowl with the Rams.

Instead, he told the crowd, which included many kids from local football and soccer programs, to follow their own dreams and most importantly “be a Vineland kid.”

“It’s possible to be from Vineland and get a college scholarship,” Demby said. “It’s possible to be from Vineland and pursue your dreams of being an NFL player. It’s possible to be an NBA player, artist, musician, lawyer, doctor, business owner, broadcaster, mayor, president… you name it. And it can start here.

“You can achieve anything and the best thing is you can do it right here in Vineland.”

Demby also said the path to professional football contained potholes, even at first when he was playing flag football in the city.

“I always wanted to run the ball, but they didn’t give me the ball because I was too big and too slow, I wasn’t going to outrun anybody,” he said.

Demby wanted to quit midget football on several occasions and was even kicked out of the freshman basketball team when he arrived at Vineland High.

When some of his friends chose to go to other high schools, Demby swore his loyalty to Vineland.

“I didn’t want to succumb to the narrative that I had to leave Vineland to get a scholarship,” he said. “My decision was made and I was going to do something myself here in Vineland.”

It was this kind of attitude that caught Russo’s attention.

“He helped lay the foundation for what we were trying to build here,” the head coach said. “He was always so positive and the academics were amazing. He was a real student-athlete.

Demby, 25, went on to play football and earn a college degree in kinesiology at the University of Maine. He was selected in the sixth round (192nd overall) by the Rams in 2018. He spent all of last season on injured reserve.

Jamil Demby Day was the start of what will likely be a huge weekend for Vineland football alumni. Isiah “Pop” Pacheco, who attended Friday, is expected to be selected in the NFL Draft this weekend.

Tom McGurk is a regional sports reporter for the Courier-Post, the Daily Journal and the Burlington County Times, covering South Jersey sports for over 30 years. If you have a sports story to tell, contact him at (856) 486-2420 or by email Follow him on Twitter at @McGurkSports. Help support local journalism with a digital subscription.