By Trey Williams
Former Science Hill quarterback Jaylan Adams hasn’t found a new home in pro football yet, but he’s got a foot in the door.
Adams, who quarterbacked at The Citadel and Norfolk State, received an invitation to the Washington Commanders rookie minicamp last week.
If feeling his way in an NFL camp wasn’t surreal enough, Adams was doing so while converting to defensive back. But he’s confident he made a good showing.
“It was a three-day deal,” he said. “They bring all their rookies that they signed from the draft and undrafted free agents, and then they invite potential prospects that could be on their team.”
The waiting now is the hardest part.
“It’s one of those things you kind of don’t know, you just you just kind of wait to hear the call,” he said. “I did really good the three days I was there. They liked how I played while practicing for those three days. Now it’s just a waiting game, just to see if they pull the trigger or not.”
Among the players Adams worked out with were former Mississippi State defensive back Emmanuel Forbes, the No. 16 overall pick in last month’s draft, and former Clemson defensive end K.J. Henry. Adams rushed 12 times for 50 yards against the top-ranked Tigers as a sophomore.
“Emmanuel’s all business,” Adams said. “When he gets on the field he’s locked in and ready to go. He doesn’t do much talking. He lets his play do all the talking. I’m pretty sure they drafted mostly defense and some offensive linemen.”
Adams, a 5-foot-10, 185-pounder, worked at cornerback and nickel back.
“It boosted my confidence a lot, just being from college and having the ability to cover those receivers,” Adams said. “Knowing that I can guard those receivers and be successful when I’m there has really helped a lot. They also had me playing some inside being in the box. I love being physical. So being able to get into boxes, using my abilities to go make plays, go make tackles is something I like to do.
“It’s a really physical game. That’s what makes it a fun game, especially growing up as a kid, all you want to do is just play football. And when you get to that level, even though you’re playing against grown-ups, you’re still living a long dream of being a kid and just being able to play a game.”
Although he was a quarterback in college, one coach said prior to Adams’ freshman year at The Citadel that he had the tools that might make him a pro cornerback.
Adams had a productive collegiate career engineering offenses. He rushed for 948 yards and 12 touchdowns and passed for 1,071 yards and seven TDs his final season at The Citadel in 2021.
As a senior at Science Hill, Adams piled up 1,431 yards and 22 touchdowns on the ground and passed for 1,630 yards and 12 touchdowns. He moved to quarterback full time prior to his junior season.
Fittingly, he was at his best against rival Dobyns-Bennett. Adams’ father Gary, a 5-foot-9, 190-pound stud better known as Shorty, was the Mr. Football runner-up for in ’88 after rushing 2,004 yards and scoring 27 touchdowns.
“My grandfather (Bill “Bones” Adams) still wonders to this day if me and him raced who would win,” Jaylan said. “I’ve never seen film … but my grandfather says we ran identically.”
Adams said he will likely return to Science Hill to work Coach Stacy Carter’s camp this summer.
“I’ll tell them (campers) at the end of the day, it’s what you do behind closed doors,” Adams said. “It’s that extra work you put in – the little things that can separate you from a lot of people. … I want to just let kids know there is a shot for someone from a small city – as long as they will work for it and give that effort. Growing up in a small city like this, it’s rare for someone in this small town to make it to the NFL. And the last person that did it was Aubrayo Franklin, and that’s been 20-plus years, I think.”
Another Science Hill alum, the late Bo Austin, was also drafted by Washington in 1958. Adams is prepared to pursue the NFL beyond this year. After all, he’s learning a new position.
“If this doesn’t work out, we’re going to start looking into the USFL and the XFL just to get more repetitions, just being able to play professionally,” Adams said. “Because a lot of a lot of NFL teams now – they do look at those other leagues and take players. Maybe there’s a person that has NFL potential, but it’s just not there yet. So they go to another league for about a year or so just so they can get their feet wet.”
The preliminary audition left Adams satisfied with his showing.
“I did all I could,” he said. “You prove what you have in those few days, and then you just let the chips fall.”