PSU's All-American defensive back
One of the last experiences Anthony Adams had on a football field was dropping an interception.
It happened in March on the final day of spring practice for the Portland State Vikings, just before the team learned its spring scrimmage would be canceled as COVID-19 shutdowns became the reality.
That play is one that has stuck in the memory of the defensive back as he awaits a much-anticipated junior season that has been delayed by the pandemic. It's not that Adams is having trouble moving forward. Moving on after bad plays is a lesson Adams had to learn while starting 11 games as a freshman in 2018. It's just that remembering missed opportunities fuels Adams' drive to improve.
Even after a breakout sophomore season saw the 6-foot, 185-pound Newberg native earn consensus FCS All-America recognition, Adams has been busy trying to get better.
That's hardly a surprise, given that Adams was a team captain as a sophomore, evidence of his ability to lead on the field and off of it. PSU coach Bruce Barnum says Adams is the defensive player he talks with most often.
"I can't say enough about his leadership on and off the field," Barnum said.
Coming off a season when he had five interceptions, led the nation with 24 passes defensed and had a program-record 19 pass breakups, Adams is shifting from strong safety to play cornerback.
"I'm happy with it," Adams said of the position change. "I feel like I can have more impact (at corner). I can take away one side of the field."
At Newberg, he played quarterback and was twice a Three Rivers League first-team selection at that position, experience that helps him disguise his coverage as a defender. Even as a successful prep quarterback, Adams had figured out that defensive back was a good fit for his skills.
His position choice started with some simple math. Adams played receiver early in his prep career, but at summer camps, "the lines were much shorter for DBs, so I went over there to get more reps."
Adams approached this period away from football with the same mindset. Sure, he's watched some TV. But he's also studied a whole lot of video, including every game from the past two Viking seasons and every spring practice session.
Adams understands that plays made once the ball is snapped are usually determined by making the correct pre-snap read. That kind of development can happen during a quarantine.
Even stuck at his Newberg home, Adams had the equipment needed to do the strength training prescribed by his coaches. He returned to Portland State in mid-June, where the few local players on campus can lift in groups of no more than eight while wearing masks and following other sanitization protocols.
The threat of losing a football season, and the dangers of COVID-19, can wear on even healthy young athletes. By keeping busy, while playing some golf and doing some fishing, Adams says he's coping with the new realities.
"I've been more anxious than anything," he said. "This is the first time I'm not playing football in August since probably second grade."
His plan is to be playing football for many Augusts to come. His goal is to be in the NFL after two more seasons with the Vikings.
Adams chose to play at PSU because the Vikings "wanted me more than anybody else."
The sense of family Adams felt during the recruiting process was a factor, as was the fact that the Big Sky Conference always has teams contending for FCS national titles.
"I knew I could get to where I wanted to go through Portland State," Adams said of his decision to follow brother Darnell, a Vikings receiver from 2012 to 2017.
Adams is confident the Vikings' togetherness will be fine despite the time apart. But he called time away from teammates the most challenging aspect of the pandemic.
"Not being able to build relationships with teammates has been hard," he said. "Football is a game of camaraderie, and we haven't been able to be a team recently."
Barnum said Adams is mature beyond his age.
"He's going on 30, 35 (years old)," Barnum said. "He's a mature kid. He came in that way and had good high school coaching."
Adams said he isn't too concerned about getting sick. But he doesn't want to be the reason a family member catches COVID-19.
With that in mind, he knows he will miss some of his favorite moments this season.
"The best feeling is winning a game and coming out of the locker room and hugging the people who you love," he said. "That's not a good idea right now."
Adams said he does envision sharing plenty of winning smiles.
The Vikings were picked to finish seventh in the media poll and eighth by the coaches in the Big Sky media poll. Adams and receiver Emmanuel Daigbe were the only Vikings voted to the preseason all-conference team. But Adams said Portland State has the talent and the belief within the program to contend for the conference title.
The accolades at the end of last season and the preseason honors this summer reflect the respect Adams earned with his play in 2019. But they don't impress Adams.
"I think I left a lot of plays on the field last year," he said. "My expectations for myself are a lot higher this year."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.