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Adams a two-way star in the making

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adams brian1.jpgOne of the best kept secrets of the spring is Brian Adams.

Catch a spring football practice and listen to the coaches afterwards and you'll hear about a player that oozes with playmaking ability and NFL-type speed. Follow Adams just a few hundred yards over to Cliff Hagan Stadium and you will see a baseball player dripping with raw, albeit unpolished, talent.

Adams is the type of two-sport star that few programs are fortunate enough to be blessed with, but that talent was almost stripped away last summer with a rare life-threatening condition.

Shortly before he made his journey to UK to enroll in his first summer camp for the Kentucky football team, Adams was diagnosed with a blood clot. An initial medical evaluation did not detect the condition, and had UK athletic trainer Jim Madaleno not diagnosed the clot as soon as he did, the young man might have been lost.

"It went into his lungs," former UK football coach Rich Brooks said over the summer. "We almost lost him."

Adams redshirted the 2009 football season but made a full recovery and is back on both the football field and baseball diamond this spring. In less than a year's time, Adams has watched his life flash before his eyes, only to rebound stronger than ever in time for a potential breakthrough year in 2010.

"It is a tremendous blessing to be back out here," Adams said at football practice Wednesday. "It is a lot of fun and a great opportunity. I am loving every minute of it. You can't take it away. I am just living the life and having a good time."

Adams is the type of kid that people want to be around. His smile is infectious and his exuberance is admirable. 

We will never know why people like Adams are forced to face something as scary as last summer's blood clot, but it never altered his outlook on life. It is one of the main reasons Adams was able to recover so quickly and find his way back on the field.
 
"Being 18 years old, I don't think I knew the significance of it," Adams said. "I was more scared I wouldn't be able to play football again. After everyone started talking about it when I got back up here and about all the dying and stuff, then it got a little more serious. It was kind of a crazy thing. It kind of strengthened my faith in God a little bit and my family and brought us all a little closer together."

But Adams isn't just a feel-good story of a kid who made it back to the field. This is a story of a kid who plans to make an impact on it.

Blessed with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash, Adams has already made an impact on the baseball team and is quickly moving up the depth chart at spring football practice.

"It's so good to see him out here," UK football coach Joker Phillips said. "Yes, he can help us, because he's big, fast and he catches the football, too, which is what a wide receiver should do. I'm so happy to have him out here. This game's important to him."

Because of Adams' speed and versatility, he actually has a realistic shot of earning some playing time in the fall as a redshirt freshman.

"His 40 time was the fastest time in our group," first-year wide receivers coach Tee Martin said. "He plays fast, (which) is what l like about him. He doesn't run a 4.4 on the field but then run a 4.6 with pads on. He runs like a 4.4 guy which is what you want to see."

Adams played primarily quarterback at South Forsyth High School in Gainesville, Ga., but has been projected as a wide receiver from day one because of his quickness. While he's still learning the nuances of the position, he shined in UK's first major scrimmage of the spring season.

"I think the biggest thing is at the top of the routes, making moves and doing the small things," Adams said of the adjustments he is having to make at wide receiver. "Using your hands at the line of scrimmage, getting off the line, making blocks, stuff like that. There are small things at receiver that you don't really learn at quarterback. As far as catching the ball, I feel well."

As impressive as Adams has been catching the pigskin, it's on the base paths where Adams has really turned heads this spring. As a part-time contributor, Adams has seen action in eight games this season, getting three hits in seven at-bats while pinch running in several key situations.

Head coach Gary Henderson raved about his outstanding speed, strong arm and raw talent in an interview earlier this week and believes he could be a huge addition to the team down the line .

Adams was actually selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the 45th round of the 2009 MLB Draft, and Henderson made a huge statement in his conviction of Adams when he placed him on the 25-man travel roster as a freshman.

Quite frankly, athletes like Adams don't come around the baseball diamond very often.

"There's been some, but there's not very many," Henderson said. "The type of athlete that Brian is that when they have baseball skills to go along with it, sometimes they just go into professional baseball because the bonuses are so high. He's in a small group. College baseball does not see a lot of those types of athletes. But can he get enough time with the repetitions that will get him to the point where he can be a successful player in the conference? "

Because Adams' first priority is football, he's been forced to miss a large chunk of baseball practice during the spring football season.

Henderson would certainly like to have his hands on Adams a bit more than he's been able to of late, but he made no hesitation in approaching Adams to join the baseball team when he discovered his ability.

"It was a no brainer," Henderson said. "He's bigger, stronger, and faster (than most athletes we get). He's very bright. He has good instincts of the game. He plays with legitimate aggressiveness and there's no fear in his game. It's just a matter of time in getting practice in to help improve his game."

Splitting time between the Nutter Training Facility, Cliff Hagan Stadium and class hasn't been easy for Adams, but he wouldn't have it any other way.

Adams was given a second chance over the summer and he plans on making the most of it.

"It keeps you busy, but it keeps you out of trouble," Adams said. "It is a good thing and it is a lot of fun. It is definitely tough at times, but everybody makes sacrifices. I think it will be worth it in the long run."

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