Before Kendall Adams arrived at Kansas State and became one of the most productive defensive backs in the Big 12, he was a Texas fan.
He loved the Longhorns, watching all of their games from his Fort Worth home each fall and attending camps in Austin each summer. Adams grew up watching Vince Young, Colt McCoy, Jamaal Charles and other memorable players during the height of the Mack Brown era. He still considers their thrilling victory over USC for the 2005 national championship to be one of the greatest games in college football history.
Back then, Texas was his dream school.
Now, Texas tops the list of teams he wants to beat.
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“They didn’t recruit me,” Adams said. “So I kind of have a chip on my shoulder going against those guys.”
That might be an understatement. Every game K-State plays against a team from the Lone Star State has special meaning for Adams, the same way it does for most Texas-born players on the roster. The Wildcats had unrivaled success against Texas teams a year ago, becoming the first team to defeat Baylor, TCU, Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the same season since the days of the old Southwest Conference. It’s an achievement they celebrated long into the offseason.
Still, nothing tops beating the Longhorns.
“This game has a little more meaning for him,” Adams’ father, Shon, said. “It’s special for Kendall. It’s personal.”
That much has been evident since Adams committed to K-State four years ago. As a lightly recruited athlete out of a small, private school in Fort Worth, he never convinced any of the major college teams in his home state to offer a scholarship. He worked out at Baylor, had friends at TCU, talked with Texas Tech and dreamed of Texas, but none of them liked him as much as the Wildcats.
When he attended football camps in his home state, he felt lost in the shuffle. When he traveled to Manhattan, he felt like the center of attention.
For example, Adams thought he cost himself a scholarship when he tweaked his hamstring running sprints in front of K-State coaches. Instead, Bill Snyder left his perch above the recruiting camp and personally invited Adams back for another visit after he recovered from the injury. He was still interested. Adams returned a few months later and left with an offer.
He committed on the drive home. It was an easy decision. K-State wasn’t Texas, but it had everything he wanted, including a conference schedule that would allow Adams to regularly play against all the teams that overlooked him.
Adding even more fuel to the fire: major schools eventually recruited Adams. Just none from Texas. Once news of his K-State pledge became public, Arkansas, Missouri and Ohio State tried to get involved. Urban Meyer even offered to personally handle his recruitment if he would consider the Buckeyes.
“I just like to show those schools what they missed out on,” Adams said. “I am obviously happy here. I love it here, so it ended up working out for me. But going through the recruiting process was a little frustrating for me. I want to take out my frustration on those teams.”
The redshirt junior has made 22 starts for the Wildcats at free safety, piling up 128 tackles, four interceptions and two fumble recoveries. He has been at his best this season, taking command of K-State’s secondary following the departure of Dante Barnett and delivering three turnovers in four games. During a 55-7 victory over Charlotte, he became the first K-State player to return a fumble and an interception for a touchdown in the same game since Dyshod Carter in 1999. Then he clinched a 33-20 victory over Baylor with an interception.
“Kendall has been balling,” K-State defensive back D.J. Reed said. “He had the game-winning pick that really saved us against Baylor. He is playing exceptionally well.”
He also came within an eyelash of scoring on a fumble return against Vanderbilt, but the touchdown was erased on video review.
“It’s ironic to a certain degree that week after week after week he’s made a substantial play in the ballgame,” Snyder said. “Two of the three counted. His experience helps him a great deal, but it comes from being in the right place at the right time.”
Some might call that luck, but that’s now how Adams views it.
His father helped coach him in high school, and he continues to offer daily tips when they speak on the phone. Last offseason, his biggest advice for Adams was to watch more video of K-State opponents. At 6-foot-1 and 221 pounds, Adams has the physical tools to make a run at the NFL, but preparation is what could set him apart. So Adams began analyzing everything he could, from the way receivers line up to the way offensive linemen pull.
“The offense gives away something before every single play,” Shon Adams said. “You just have to know how to find it.”
Big 12 coaches have already taken notice. On a recent visit to Adams’ old high school, Shon Adams said TCU coach Gary Patterson admitted the Horned Frogs should have recruited his son.
“Too late for that,” Shon Adams said. “They have to deal with him for two more years.”
So does every team in the Big 12.
Texas is next up on Saturday. The Wildcats defeated the Longhorns 24-21 last season at Snyder Family Stadium. Adams made five tackles. He would love nothing more than to help beat Texas again. He’s on a mission to prove the recruiters that overlooked him wrong.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett