FLORENCE, Ala. — As Northwest Missouri States starting quarterback for much of the past three seasons, Trevor Adams has guided the Bearcats into the postseason and entering this year owned a winning record in playoff games.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
But the standard is different at Northwest. Adams hadnt taken the Bearcats to the NCAA final.
When I came here, they were going to championship games every year, Adams said. They expected to win.
Because Adams previous teams didnt make the final, he heard the doubts ... and the critics.
Was he the right man for the job?
He plays the position thats going to be scrutinized at any school, but especially here because weve had so many good ones, Bearcats coach Adam Dorrel said.
But Northwest didnt doubt Adams, and his confidence never wavered. The payoff is Saturday as the Bearcats meet Lenoir-Rhyne for the Division II national title. Kickoff is 11 a.m.
Northwest, appearing in its eighth final and bidding for its fourth title since 1998, is led by Adams, a fifth-year senior.
Hes having his best season with 27 touchdown passes and six interceptions while averaging 214 yards per game, making him the highest-rated passer in Division II. Adams was named MIAAs offensive player of the year even though he doesnt take every snap. Brady Bolles, the teams third-leading rusher, sees plenty of action.
Last weeks semifinal triumph over Grand Valley State displayed the positions strength. Adams and Bolles alternated on the Bearcats first touchdown drive, which was capped by Bolles scoring run.
Later in the game, Adams threw a pair of touchdown passes to Reuben Thomas, the second a 43-yard strike over the defense to clinch the 27-13 triumph.
As students and fans stormed the field and goalposts came down, Adams celebrated with his teammates, but it never felt like the weight of the world was lifted.
When football defines who you are, then you will live and die by peoples comments and criticisms of your performance, Adams said. For me its been about realizing my identity is not in football. Its something I love to do and blessed to be able to do it.
Faith keeps him grounded.
God has given me everything for a purpose, Adams said. I take comfort and peace in that. Thats how I persevered through the tough times.
Plus, Adams put in the sweat. He became the starter three games into the 2011 season and started all but two games last year. Northwest didnt win the MIAA either year but made the playoffs.
He and others in the program, especially the 12-member senior class, arrived this season determined to take the next step.
He wanted to be the best, he wanted to be the hardest worker, said wide receiver Jason Jozaites. It reminded me of the Drew Brees attitude when hed work out and train.
Brees work ethic has helped shape him into one of the NFLs best. But he was once seen as too short to make it in the NFL, then damaged goods after a shoulder injury in San Diego. A few years later, Brees won a Super Bowl with the Saints.
But a more direct comparison to Adams is Mike Winchell. Ring a bell? Winchell was the quarterback of the 1988 Permian High Panthers from Odessa, Texas, the subject of the book and movie, Friday Night Lights.
Adams was Permians quarterback in 2008, setting the school record for passing yards in a season, and remembered when the excitement surrounding the movie, starring Billy Bob Thornton as the coach, was released some four years earlier.
If you werent playing football then, you were trying out the next season, Adams said.
I get called Winchell a lot around here.
The movie Hollywood-ized the program, Adams said, but it generally portrayed a community loyal to its football team, a sense that Adams got on his recruiting visit to Northwest.
Hell leave as one of the most accomplished student-athletes in the schools history, having been named a National Scholar-Athlete by the National Football Foundation. Adams was one of 16 semifinalists from 171 candidates in all divisions and received an $18,000 postgraduate scholarship. He owns a 3.94 GPA in biology and psychology.
The academic recognition took Adams to New York for a presentation earlier this month. If the Bearcats are successful Saturday, there will be another ceremony, one that would put an exclamation point on his career.
But not define him.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/BlairKerkhoff.