Harding alum Adams reflects on UMass career | News, Sports, Jobs

Harding alum Adams reflects on UMass career | News, Sports, Jobs

For the holidays, many college athletes stay at their respective campus. Former Warren G. Harding standout Kay’Ron Adams stayed with his girlfriend as she cooked her first Thanksgiving dinner.

Turkey, stuffing and sweet potatoes was not all Adams feasted on in the fall of 2023. In his third season with UMass, Adams had one of the better seasons of any running back in the country. He finished the year with 1,157 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. The redshirt junior is tied for 22nd in the FBS in rushing touchdowns and is 19th in rushing yards.

“I was waiting for this moment to burst through the scene,” Adams said. “I felt it was just a matter of time, and I was forced to be patient.”

After graduating from Harding, Adams committed to Rutgers to play for then-head coach and former Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash. During his two seasons in the birthplace of college football, Adams played in 18 games for the Scarlet Knights, compiling 320 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. He was the third-string running back behind two future NFL players, Raheem Blackshear of the Carolina Panthers and Super Bowl champion Isiah Pacheco of the Kansas City Chiefs.

“When I got there I saw the way these guys worked, and you could tell they were gonna be playing on Sundays,” Adams said. “I know I wanna be playing on Sundays, so it was just me competing with them in every way. Whether they know it or not, I was competing with them and finding ways to get better because I see where they’re going.

“I gained a lot from them playing in the Big Ten seeing teams like Ohio State and Penn State. It really helped me see the speed of the game. Any football game is fast, but it’s a different caliber of athletes in that conference and it helped me.”

After the COVID-19-shortened season in 2020, Adams chose to enter the transfer portal and signed with the Minutemen. Going from Power 5 to Group of 5 can be a transition. Adams wanted to be part of a program that could help him show the world what he could do.

“Being an independent you play a scattered schedule, but you play SEC and Big Ten teams and I saw they played those top schools,” Adams said. “My ultimate goal is to get to the NFL so I felt that (UMass) was the best avenue. Being in it now and seeing how college football talks, being an independent you really don’t get talked about and you don’t get too many eyes on you. But they gave me an opportunity to show I can play football.”

On Oct. 2, he suffered a season-ending ankle injury in a 45-7 loss at home to Toledo. The fear of not being able to compete after any serious injury can make an athlete very worrisome. At one point Adams considered changing positions or coaching. But he went to a special place that any great athlete goes to overcome anything.

“I was really down because I never had to sit down and be away from football, so when the game was taken away from me, it really did turn over a rock that I didn’t even know I had within myself,” Adams said “It damaged me in a way, but it also gave me a feeling that I knew I never wanted to feel this type of way again. The rain isn’t gonna last forever so it was really just a matter of chopping my way out of the mud and coming through to where I’m at right now.”

In November 2021, UMass hired Don Brown as their head coach, and a month later Steve Casula as offensive coordinator. Both coaches served on Jim Harbough’s staff at Michigan in years prior. Brown spent five seasons in Ann Arbor as the defensive coordinator.

The new staff never saw Adams play coming off a short season due to injury. Early on, Adams spent a great deal of time with Brown on the defensive side of the ball as he considered changing positions going into the 2022 season. He says Brown’s influence helped him once he returned to running back.

“I learned a lot being on the defensive side of the ball,” Adams said. “Seeing the mindset of what they’re trying to do with the offense, when I moved back to running back it was almost like I was ahead of guys in a way.”

Adams is the latest in a century-long tradition of players from Warren competing at a high level in college. He doesn’t forget where he comes from or the lessons he learned back home.

He has played in iconic venues from the Big House in Ann Arbor to The Plains in Auburn.

But what he misses the most is hearing the famous “Touchdown, Raiders” echo throughout Mollenkoff Stadium on Friday nights. The first playoff game he played in 2017 against Brecksville-Broadview Heights feels like yesterday.

“I got an inside zone and I took it 50 yards to the crib. When I hit the hole I just remember hearing the crowd and it was the first time I was hitting my tunnel vision because it was like a blur and I was in my zone. And any time I touched the field after that I was in my zone,” he said.

On Friday, Adams officially declared for the 2024 NFL Draft. In his post on Instagram he expressed his gratitude to Brown, Casula, and the love and knowledge he gained in his three years in Amherst. He hopes to be an example to the young players throughout his city with dreams of playing on Sundays.

“That’s all I ever wanted,” he said. “To accomplish that would mean everything to me because it would be a big message out there to the city and kids to see how this is. None of it is going to be easy. If you just work and stick to it with a positive mindset and strong ambition to get what you really want. I’m in the midst of that right now. It’s a great feeling when you know it’s getting closer and closer.”

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