Counting down the weekdays to Super Bowl LI on Feb. 5 in Houston, we look back at the 50 greatest Super Bowl competitors from the ASN family of schools as calculated one year ago. Today: 32.
Mike Adams couldn’t make good on his promise to walk home from Met Life Stadium, in helmet and full pads, if the Denver Broncos won Super Bowl XLVIII. The Seattle Seahawks saw to that.
It would have been a symbolic gesture by the veteran defensive back, who knows that his journey to reach the Super Bowl was far more taxing than a 10-mile hike from the Meadowlands to the tough streets of Paterson, N.J., even in the dead of winter.
“It can be almost like a cancer,” Adams told the Denver Post, describing his hometown vibe. “And I say that because the negativity in that place can be like a snowball rolling downhill.”
Adams’ NFL career is at 12 years and counting, currently with the Indianapolis Colts, as he continues to defy the odds. He was an undrafted free agent out of Delaware in 2004, a member of the Blue Hens’ 2003 Division I-AA national championship team.
He suffered a hip injury in college that doctors originally said was career threatening, and a subsequent broken leg that lowered his draft stock. He overcame the death of his mother while at Delaware.
Adams, 5-11 and 200 pounds, signed with the San Francisco 49ers and played three years with them. He signed a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Browns, where he played five years. When the Browns didn’t offer him a contract, he caught on with the Broncos, where he started and played regularly for two years before moving to Indy and the Colts after the 2013 season.
Along the way, Adams developed a reputation for dependability and durability. From 2006-14, he missed only four regular-season games.
“Mike was a great teammate these past two years,” Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning told reporters before last year’s playoff game against the Colts. “He was a great leader for us, a great veteran. I was sorry to see him go.”
The move to Denver gave Adams a rare taste of postseason. He won just 28 games in five years in Cleveland, and 28 in two years in Denver. He enjoyed his time and the relationships he built in Cleveland, but couldn’t stay.
“I always watch them from afar,” he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “but I do feel bad for them — and not just them, the city — deserves to win. And it’s just like change after change, and rebuilding after rebuilding, and I think I was getting too old to be rebuilding. But that’s just the nature of the beast, I guess.”
The Broncos were favored in Super Bowl XLVIII, but they committed numerous mistakes and the Seahawks overwhelmed them, 43-8. Adams, the starting free safety, collected six tackles and was on the field for more snaps than any defensive player.
He couldn’t fulfill his desire to walk home following a win, but he told northern New Jersey’s The Record:
“I just hope I’ve been an inspiration to the young guys. I’ve got to make it my business when I go back to play in this big game to go back and talk to kids at a school and a little league football team. I have to let them know that dreams come true if you keep working. It took me 10 years, but I never gave up on it.”
Dave Fairbank is a freelance writer based in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. Follow him on Twitter @FairbankOBX.