CLEMSON, S.C. -- Clemson's best defender last week against Florida State may have been on the sidelines in street clothes.
Keith Adams, the Tigers star linebacker, said Saturday he didn't regret leaving for the NFL after his junior season this past January, but thinks "I might have made a couple of mistakes."
Adams was the 5-foot-9, 220-pound All-America who defensive coordinator Reggie Herring called "The Terminite" - a combo of termite for his small size and "Terminator" for the way he crunch opposing ball carriers.
Adams set school records in 1999 with 186 tackles and 16 sacks, bursting on the scene as an unblockable force in college football. With more attention from offenses the next year, Adams still had 148 tackles and seven sacks to become a first-team All-American.
Things looked rosy when Adams, the son of New England Patriots star Julius Adams, chose to give up his final year of playing over Clemson coach Tommy Bowden's advice. But draft day wasn't what Adams expected, selected in the seventh and final round by the Tennessee Titans.
Adams agreed to a multiyear deal with the team, but was released on Aug. 31.
"I live with my decision. I'm a man," Adams said Saturday before Clemson's 41-27 loss to the Seminoles. "I'm happy that things happened the way they did because it opened my eyesight to a lot of other things."
Adams said not making the final roster showed him how much he cared about the game and playing pro football. It told him that if he worked hard, kept healthy and trained solidly, Adams, who'll be 22 on Nov. 22, will eventually succeed.
"I realized that nothing comes easy and you've got to work for it," Adams said. "It's going to make me a better person on the field and off the field."
Adams is living in Atlanta, training six days a week. That was easy to see Saturday, Adams' rock-hard muscles visible through his oversized short-sleeve shirt.
He's says he has a couple of possibilities for playing this year, "but I'm not going to talk about it right now."
Adams would've had looked wonderful in the middle of Clemson's struggling defense this season. The Tigers were sixth in Atlantic Coast Conference defense at more than 366 yards a game before Florida State. The Seminoles riddled them for 557 yards and four touchdown passes - three over 28 yards - from freshman Chris Rix.
Herring said that Clemson controlled the line of scrimmage pretty well, but gave up too many big plays down field. "It is very frustrating," he said. "The bottom line is we're not very good."
Adams said he could feel his adrenaline rising as game time approached. But he was glad for the chance to see "the guys I went to battle with each day," he said. "You just have to realize that life goes on, you just have to move on from that and move on as much as you can."
For Adams, that might mean finishing his degree in parks, recreation and tourism management. He spoke with Bill D'Andrea, long in charge of Clemson's Student-Athlete Enrichment Center and now senior associate athletic director for football and men's basketball, about continuing his education like former Tiger football star Anthony Simmons, now with the Seattle Seahawks.
Adams has learned the past few months that nothing, including NFL football success, is promised. "Everybody has obstacles, but being a true man, you have to go up to those obstacles, face the facts, realize you made a couple of mistakes in life," Adams said. "You've got to keep going and try to succeed."
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