Born: Oct. 17, 1995
Experience: 2017 NFL Draft prospect
Jamal Adams comes from a family with great expectations and greater bloodlines. His father, George, was a first-round pick by the New York Giants in the 1985 NFL Draft, but Jamal has believed since he was 10 that he can surpass his dad. A month before potentially realizing his dream as a top-10 pick, the All-American safety talked about his innate ability to lead, his penchant for getting kicked out of youth football leagues and a draft bet he made with a fellow prospect way back in high school.
Interview by Nick Shook • March 27, 2017
Read full interview on NFL.com
NFL Media’s Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense — just football experiences directly from the source.
I get the assumption that my father (former first-round pick and Giants/Patriots running back George Adams) kind of forced me to play football, but it wasn’t like that. I was thrown in the game and I ran with it. I fell in love with the game right around age 6, 7, just saying that this is what I wanted to do. I remember telling my mom that I wanted to be in the NFL, and now it’s here. I was never forced, but I was always supposed to be, I was raised to be on a high level. Never cut yourself short. Always give 110 percent and just do your best.
I wanted to be better than [my dad]. I told him at a young age that I was going to get drafted higher than him. He went 19th. The craziest part about it is we had a bet. I made it at age 10. I remember, I was like, “If I go higher than you, you have to give me $100,000; if I go past you, I have to give you $100,000.” To this day, he will not admit that we bet money. He says that we didn’t shake on it, so he’s not going to give it to me. He watches a lot of the NFL Network and he sees all the mocks and he’s like, “I’m not giving you any money.”
I’m honestly just about to buy my ticket [to Paris], because I told [fellow DB prospect Teez Tabor] that [a bet we made during high school on who would get drafted first] was going to definitely be in my favor. But Teez is a great player, definitely going to go high in the draft. I might change that trip [from] Paris [and instead] we’ll go to Dubai. Very luxurious, very high-maintenance. I just want to have him pamper me.
It was a couple games that I was getting kicked out of [while playing youth football]. It wasn’t like they were illegal hits or anything. I guess they felt like I was just above competition. I always played up; my father always had me playing up — since age 4, really. I played up with flag and I played up with tackle football and I played all the way up until I got to become a senior in high school. I always played up and I always felt like the younger guys were kind of an easy task, and when I had an opportunity to make some big hits, I definitely did.
I pride myself on [my ball skills]. You definitely don’t want to drop interceptions as a DB — as a defensive player, period. Getting your hands on the ball in college, it’s definitely more difficult than you think. You have your years. My sophomore year, I had four picks, dropped two. My junior season, I had one pick — and it was against ‘Bama.
For the longest [time], I was going to Florida. [Former Gators assistant] Joker Phillips is my godfather. The opportunity was there at both, but something in me just kind of felt [LSU] was the right place for me. I went there and I don’t regret anything about it. The decision was definitely hard. It was a decision that … I fell in love with the coaches at Florida … and it was the first step of being a man, telling somebody no, so that was very tough. Plus, I was telling my godfather no. It was a sight to see, but at the same time, it was the right opportunity. DBs are constantly being put in the league out of LSU. [The LSU program is] definitely top football in the SEC West.
[Coaches I turned down] kept calling, man. I was on my way to the [Army] All-American Game on the bus with the team, and they kept calling, and I kind of already told them I’m gonna go a different route, and it was hard, man. You make so many friendships and so many relationships with the schools through the process, and then you get to where you can only pick one, and there’s so many great schools and people out there. At the end of the day, now that I know, it’s a business. It’s definitely nothing personal.
I’m below [LSU greats like Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu] right now. I’m just getting started. I haven’t reached anything that they’ve reached. Hopefully I can be as good as them one day. I’m just going to stay level-headed and keep working.
I think Coach O (LSU head coach Ed Orgeron) is going to do a phenomenal job. If I could play for him one more time, I definitely would. I used to tell him before I decided to come out, I’m like, “Coach, I’m coming back.” And he’s like, “No, you’re not coming back. You just can’t.” I love the guy to death — not only him, but I love [former LSU head coach Les] Miles, as well. Two outstanding coaches that coached me, that I’m thankful for and they’re going to move on to do successful things.
[My experience with NFL Films’ “Hey Rookie, Welcome to the NFL”] is cool. Having a lot of cameras in your face while you’re walking around, just enjoying life, is definitely different and something I had to get used to. Matter of fact, they just left Dallas, which is my home. My mom, she’s not used to the cameras. My dad, he’s OK with it. But with the cameras in the house recording us while we eat, just doing little things, she was just kind of a little nervous. She started to warm up toward the end, but it’s just telling me that life is changing.
[The combine and workout period] is definitely draining. I didn’t think it was going to be that draining. It definitely separates the men from the boys, honestly, because there are so many doctor visits, so many visits with teams. You’re staying up late, you’re not getting a lot of sleep. It’s overwhelming, but it’s definitely a process you have to go through.
The craziest [combine interview question was], “Have you ever smoked pot?” Because LSU is known for that. And I’m like, “No.” And they kept asking and kept asking. And I’m like, “Man, I’m clean.” All the teams asked that. They’re like, “There’s no way — you go to LSU.” So we get that stereotype. That was the craziest question I kept getting.
You can’t be taught to be a leader. It’s kind of something that goes along with it by growing up. I was fortunate enough to be raised by two great parents. I think that played a huge role in it. Just always doing the right things on and off the field. Never try to be the same as everybody else. Always try to do different things, going the opposite way. Just little things like that that I took from advice from my parents that just kind of translated on the field. I’ve always been that vocal leader on the field, trying to be that Energizer Bunny and just always bring that energy around and have fun.
[I] most definitely [think I should be the first player drafted]. I feel like I bring everything to the game: versatility, finding a safety that can come down in the box and can also play in the slot, cover, blitz, play single-high. Not only that, but I’m definitely going to bring that swagger and a lot more energy to the team and just change the culture. Just always trying to make impact plays and being a team player.
[LSU cornerback Tre’Davious “Shaq” White] calls me “Model Mal.” I like to always take pictures. I’m into social media, I’m into a little bit of everything. I love acting, I love to have fun, so it’s not one certain thing.
I would hate for this to go out of context, but if I had a dream, there are two teams that really stick in my head, and that’s the Giants and the Cowboys, hands down. I’m from Dallas. Pops played for the Giants. Those two teams. But I would love to go anywhere. I just want to get picked and earn the respect of my teammates.
I think [LSU running back Leonard Fournette] is going to end up with either the Jets or the Panthers. I’ve seen a lot of people talk about the Panthers with him. He’s going to do phenomenal, man — get drafted, go in, earn the respect of his teammates and compete. That’s all we can do. He’s definitely going to do well.