Palo Alto's Davante Adams completes a football circle


When Tony Kelly became a receivers coach for the Palo Alto High School football team in 2010, Davante Adams was known more as a star basketball player than a football talent. Kelly saw the opposite.

"Everybody said, 'Oh, they got this great basketball player,' and when I got here I told all the coaches, 'Dude, this guy could be playing on Saturday,'" Kelly said. "I didn't know he'd be playing on Sunday."

Adams, who grew up in Palo Alto and was a two-sport athlete at Paly, picked up football only after suffering a basketball injury in middle school. Little did he know he would one day be doing the famed "Lambeau Leap" in Green Bay and catching passes from a two-time MVP quarterback in Aaron Rodgers.

"Playing with the best, it doesn't get better than that," Adams said. "I didn't play football until my junior year in high school. I branched into football when I broke my arm in middle school and decided to take time off. Once I was able to come back, I used all the things I learned from basketball to get into football. Everything ended up working out. I had a lot of support from my high school coaches and family."

He could have done without Wisconsin's sub-zero weather.

"It was a bit of a culture shock, going from here to there," Adams said. "It was my first time being in the snow when I got onto Green Bay. Didn't know how to drive in it, didn't know how to deal with it."

Last Saturday, Adams' career came full circle when he hosted a football camp at his alma mater for around 50 youth between the ages of 8 and 18. While autographing cards for the campers, Adams said the goals of the camp were to give kids a place "to come in, work out, have fun and meet other kids," as well as inspire them as a pro athlete from the local area.

"To see a figure that's been in the same position they were in that made it to where they ultimately want to be, that's the type of thing that drives them," Adams said. "Seeing people from your area that were doing well when I was younger -- that was a big thing, seeing them and being like, 'It's a realistic thing for me to be able to make it.'"

The camp, held on the football field at Paly, was a lax atmosphere, with Adams and other coaches and trainers leading kids through drills while a DJ played upbeat music. Just being around a pro athlete served as an inspiration for the campers in attendance.

"This is going to be worth millions!" exclaimed one camper as he picked up a card signed by Adams.

Others saw in Adams a blueprint and inspiration to follow in his footsteps.

"It feels good being out here with someone that's up in the next level," said Jamison Mitchell, a rising senior at Bear Creek High in Stockton. "I hope to get there one day. I'm out here putting in this work so I can get my name out to the colleges and see if I can get anybody to send me there."

Adams, who comes back to Palo Alto during the offseason and bye weeks, embraces being a role model in his hometown.

"I know when they see me, it keeps them going, especially guys in high school," Adams said. "It pushes them to go harder and say, 'I want to be where he's at.' The younger guys, they just want to meet an NFL athlete, so being able to have (the camp) gives them the opportunity to be able to meet myself or whoever else I have helping the camp -- just to be around a good environment."

Pamela Brown, Adams' mother, thought her son would play basketball professionally. But in Adams' senior season, Paly football went undefeated and captured the state championship in part due to Adams' 1,094 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns. His leaping touchdown catch in the final minute of the CCS title game against Archbishop Mitty to give his team a thrilling win still lives in Paly lore.

From there, the schools came calling.

"Football scholarships came at him and he was like, 'I've got to get this free education. I'm taking this,'" Brown said.

Adams accepted a scholarship at Fresno State, where he spent two seasons before being drafted in the second round by the Packers in 2014. In two seasons, he has amassed 929 yards and four touchdowns in 29 games.

It's no accident that Adams made it to the big stage. Kelly, now the head football coach at Gunn, touted Adams' work ethic and said he would use Adams as bait by giving him a Jolly Rancher in the huddle during practice.

"All the other players would smile and say, 'Coach why did you give Davante one and not us one,' Kelly said. "And I'd say, 'Well Davante's going hard.' I'd bribe everybody by using Davante's good work ethic."

Kelly continued: "He was just a good athlete, good player, good friend, good teammate. There's a reason why he made it to where he made it, because of all those attributes."

Adams said he set lofty goals for himself with the full intention of reaching them. On Saturday, campers caught a glimpse of the talent and success story Adams has become.

"I'm sure he really inspires a lot of these kids," Brown said. "All those that think they can't make it, he's living proof. He's a living example."

As for Adams? He's living his dream.

"I would imagine (playing professionally) when I was younger," he said. "I'd see myself doing that. If you don't make goals that people think are out of range, you're selling yourself short. It's surreal to have it actually evolve and turn into that."

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8 people like this
Posted by John Connolly
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2016 at 8:14 am

Devante and his family are a class act. Our family have been following his career since his senior year at Paly, Green Bay is our second favorite team now. Go Devante!!

Like this comment
Posted by Be Positive
a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Jun 29, 2016 at 9:32 am

Be Positive is a registered user.

Great that Davante is giving back to our community - he's a nice young man!

Like this comment
Posted by Concerned Coach
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 29, 2016 at 11:14 am

Concerned Coach is a registered user.

@ John Connolly ... you must mean Davante not Devante?

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Posted by Midtown Mom
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 29, 2016 at 8:17 pm

@Concerned Coach. Yes, Davante! Thanks for roof reading for typos.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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