Despite all his success, Adams remains humble
Clemson's Gaines Adams, a possible top-10 draft pick, talks about his preference between LB and DE and more in the Weekly Conversation.
Editor's note: Between now and the NFL draft (April 28-29), Graham Bensinger will be talking to a high-profile prospect each week. This week, he checks in with Clemson DE Gaines Adams.
Graham Bensinger: How was the combine experience?
Gaines Adams: Overall, it was a good experience. I'm glad that I got selected to be there, show my abilities and meet the coaches.
Bensinger: Your expectations coming into it versus the reality of what it turned out to be?
Adams: My expectations for myself were just ridiculous. I put so much pressure on myself to work hard and be ready for the combine knowing that there would be a lot of competition and that it was one of the stepping stones to being successful. I put a lot of stress on myself to work hard and stay focused.
Bensinger: How does the pressure of getting ready for the combine compare to getting ready for a big game?
Bensinger: What'd you think of your performance at the combine?
Adams: I think I did good. I could have run a little faster. I was looking for a better 40 time. It was still a good 40 time for me though. Between the position drills and me not having a lot of time to prepare for the linebacker drills, I think I did pretty good.
Bensinger: You sound so humble. Everyone else seems to think you did pretty well too. I talked to Troy Smith last week and he was surprised by the detailed line of questioning during the meetings with teams. What did you think?
Adams: I felt the same. They were getting straight to the point and trying to figure out what you knew about football. They were getting me up on the board and asking me 4-3 and 3-4 formations and other key points that I would need to know in particular defenses.
Bensinger: I was surprised by how much the teams already know about your personal life. What were you most surprised that the teams knew about you?
Adams: That I haven't had any troubles in my past. I got that question because obviously they have to ask it, but they already knew that I'm a good guy and haven't had any problems with my past.
Bensinger: You're on the brink of being a top pick and making millions of dollars. It can be enticing for players to enter the NFL draft before they've reached their full potential at the collegiate level. In past years, how much consideration did you give to entering the draft?
Adams: There wasn't much consideration. I sent my application in to the NFL draft to see where they would project me. They gave me a fourth round grade so obviously it wasn't a good idea for me to come out after I saw that. The media got hold of it and blew it out of proportion. I'm the type of guy that when I start things I like to finish it. I was close to graduating. I did graduate on December 21st. It really wasn't a big deal.
Bensinger: Even if you were just giving it mild consideration, what was your reason behind doing so?
Adams: Just to listen to people. I did have an OK season, but not the year that I wanted to have ... like I did my senior season. I'm glad that I listened to my coaches and that the evaluation gave me a fourth-round grade.
Bensinger: A player is considering foregoing his senior season and entering the draft early. What do you say to him?
Adams: Just know what situation you're in. Like I said, my situation was a fourth-round grade. Obviously, that was a sign to go back to school. If you're a junior coming out of school and got a top-rated grade, why not give it a shot?
Bensinger: You said staying made you a better team leader. How so?
Adams: After my junior season, I was kind of thrown into the fire and really didn't know the role. When you become a senior, you get the whole deal where it's your last go around and you just try to motivate the young guys to feel the way you feel. I just wanted to lead by example.
Bensinger: Regardless of the round that a player is projected to be drafted in, it's going to be on the individual's mind. How do you handle that?
Adams: I'm a humble person. To this day I still can't believe the situation that I'm in. I'm still trying to work hard and do what I need to do to put myself in that top position.
Bensinger: What aspect of your game are you most proud of?
Adams: I would say rushing the passer. I do that with the best of them. I obviously got a lot more to improve on in my game to be a complete player though.
Bensinger: I know you're a big fan of Julius Peppers. What do you most admire about his game?
Adams: The way he plays. You can tell he's got so much love for the game. It's the energy that he puts into it.
Bensinger: How much, if any, of Peppers' game have you tried to integrate into yours?
Adams: I try to put some of his pass rushing moves into my game. Julius Peppers is a beast, man. I don't know how many pounds he outweighs me by ... I still try to do things like him to make my game better.
Bensinger: It's important to always try to continue improving. It's great that you acknowledge that. What part of your game needs most work?
Adams: I feel like by me putting on a couple more pounds will help my game tremendously. Putting on 10-15 pounds will help me stop the run better and be a more dominant pass rusher.
Bensinger: Some of the people that have expressed concerns over your height and weight said you'd be better suited as a linebacker. What do you think of that prospect?
Adams: It really doesn't matter to me whether it's defensive end or linebacker. I just want to play the game of football. I've been working on linebacker drills since I got out to Fischer Sports in Phoenix.
Bensinger: If you were told it's your choice which position would you prefer?
Adams: I would say defensive end. I love getting after that quarterback! That's my deal: sacking the quarterback.
Bensinger: When you're in those meetings with teams, will they ask what position you'd prefer?
Adams: Not so much. If they do, my answer is, "Whatever helps the team be most successful."
Bensinger: How are you handling the anticipation of Clemson's March 13th pro day?
Adams: I'm still just working out and trying to train hard out here in Phoenix. I'm trying to stay humble and stay away from home so I won't get caught up in all of the hoopla.
Bensinger: What have all of your friends been saying as the hype is beginning to exponentially increase?
Adams: I just tell them that's what hard work is for. I haven't made it yet. I always try to cut them off before they start saying anything.
Bensinger: Between now and the draft, aside from improving your game, what are you most looking forward to?
Adams: Just spending time with my family. After the draft, I'll have no time to spend with them.
Graham Bensinger is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Visit his web site at: TheGBShow.com. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org