Palo Alto High grad Davante Adams has proven he can catch everything thrown his way, as the redshirt sophomore wide receiver leads the nation in receptions and receiving touchdowns.
Adams and No. 20 Fresno State will be out to change that on Saturday when they take on No. 25 USC in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Despite his glossy numbers, Adams has been overlooked on most postseason All-America teams. He was named to a pair of teams not recognized by the NCAA, including SBNation.com's first team andcbssports.com's third team.
Adams was named to the Walter Camp second team and Athlon Sports' third team, but he was left off teams picked by The Associated Press, Football Writers Association and American Football Coaches Association.
As a redshirt freshman last year, Adams (6-2, 216) was a fourth-team All-America selection by Phil Steele and an honorable mention selection by Sports Illustrated.
"We don't get recognized on a large scale, but that could be a good thing," Adams said as he prepared for the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl, which is scheduled for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC. "This will end a real fun year."
Mountain West Conference champion Fresno State (11-1) faces USC (9-4) in its second trip to the Las Vegas Bowl and the first since a 17-16 loss to Utah in 1999. USC is also making its second trip and the first since losing to Utah, 20-6, in 2001.
The Bulldogs were ranked 15th before losing their only game of the season, 62-52, at San Jose State.
"We are ecstatic to be hosting one of the top matchups in our game's history," Executive Director Dan Hanneke said. "Both teams spent a lot of time in the national rankings this season and the Trojans are matched against one of the top offensive teams in college football in Fresno State."
The schools have met twice before, with Fresno State winning the 1992 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim and the Trojans beating the Bulldogs 50-42 at home in a regular-season game in 2005.
"It's a chance to play against one of the best programs in college and a chance to show just how good we are," said Adams, who has caught 122 passes from senior quarterback Derek Carr, 23 for touchdowns.
Rumors are circulating that Adams has an interest in declaring for the NFL draft, though he deflected any talk of filing.
"I'm focused on the game," Adams said. "I've got some time before I have to make a decision. For now, I'm a Bulldog and I'm just worried about this bowl game and making sure I finish out these practices strong and staying healthy before I get into anything like that."
NFL scouts have rated Adams as among the top receivers and a possible first-round pick if he declares. He wasn't considered a blue chip talent coming out of Palo Alto. Fresno State was one of the few colleges who recognized his potential.
"I'm not exactly sure what they told me back then," Adams said. "I remember that they said I could be a big part of the offense."
Perhaps not even head coach Tim DeRuyter and the Bulldogs' coaching staff could have predicted just how big a part he would become.
Carr, whose older brother David played at Fresno State and was an overall first-round pick by the Houston Texans in the 2002 NFL draft, has been projected a first-round pick in this year's draft.
Adams is used to catching passes from relatives of NFL quarterbacks. Christoph Bono, son of former 49er quarterback Steve Bono, was the one delivering passes at Paly.
"We had a lot of great players and the best part is how many are still out there playing," Adams said. "I still keep in touch with them."
Among the players who helped Palo Alto win the 2010 Division I state football title, Bono currently plays baseball at UCLA, B.J. Boyd signed a pro baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics and played in the Penn-New York League all-star game last year, and Kevin Anderson will appear in the Rose Bowl with Stanford.
Adams also said he appreciated Earl Hansen, who recently announced his retirement with the Vikings.
"He's a great guy," Adams said. "He helped me with recruiting. He taught me how to stay focused on taking it game by game. It's sad that he's done, but at the same time, I always wish him and the program the best."
Adams, in just two years, leads all active receivers in career touchdowns (37), average yards per game (118.3) and receptions per game (9). He's recorded 13 games of 100-yard receiving. Adams is one of only two players this century to have two games in the same season with over 200 yards receiving and four touchdown catches. His two-year totals include 224 catches for 2,957 yards.
Adams ranks second in the nation in receiving yards (1,645), just behind Oregon State's Brandin Cooks, the 2013 Biletnikoff Award winner. Adams, meanwhile, was named the winner of the lesser-known Paul Warfield Award. Adams joins an elite field of past winners that includes Calvin Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald and Randy Moss.
With one game remaining, Adams is four touchdowns shy of tying the FBS record for TD receptions in a season of 27, held by Louisiana Tech's Troy Edwards.
Clearly, Adams has made a big impact that belies his lack of notoriety. Odds are he'll be a little better known after Saturday.
This story contains 936 words.
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