10 to Watch: Keion Adams

Published 12:00 am Monday, January 2, 2017

Keion Adams and his head football coach, P.J. Fleck, have rowed the boat together at Western Michigan University, and today their journey has gotten them to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

“Row the boat” is a mantra instilled into the Western Michigan football program by Fleck, the highly motivated 36-year-old coach. He preaches for everyone to row together in one direction and learn as they go. As with any rower, they might not know what’s ahead, but they have to keep going.

The attitude has taken WMU to an undefeated season so far, a No. 15 ranking and the Cotton Bowl game against Big 10 power Wisconsin. Adams, who was a three-sport star at Salisbury High and a member of its 2010 state championship football team, has played a significant role in WMU’s ascendancy to national prominence.

In a conversation before the holidays, Adams laughed, recalling the time more than four years ago when he decided to attend WMU, located in Kalamazoo, Mich.

“I didn’t even known it existed,” Adams said. “It sounded like it was out of a Dr. Seuss book.”

But getting away from Salisbury and going to far-off Kalamazoo was the best decision he ever made “as far as where I wanted to be and needed to be,” he said.

“I’m thankful Coach Fleck gave me the opportunity,” Adams said. “He definitely changed my life.”

Adams plays defensive end, and he might be someone to watch in 2017 because he has the potential, as local friends Chris Smith (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Javon Hargrave (Pittsburgh Steelers) before him, of being on the draft boards of some National Football League teams this spring.

Adams is quick at 6-2, 245 pounds. This season he led the Mid American Conference in tackles for a loss with 17 and his own team with 7.5 sacks. Overall, he has had 47 tackles, 33 of which were solo.

He also forced three fumbles in 2016 on his way being a Second Team All-MAC selection. In 50 career games played for the Broncos, Adams has 14.5 sacks.

Adams, 21, is the son of Desmond Adams and Tanika Burnon.

— Mark Wineka

Photo courtesy of Western Michigan University     Keion Adams, a Salisbury native and star defensive end for the Western Michigan University football team.

Photo courtesy of Western Michigan University Keion Adams, a Salisbury native and star defensive end for the Western Michigan University football team.

Favorite book: “Chop Wood Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great.” Fleck gave a copy of the book to each of his seniors. Adams says its message is to trust the process, continue working hard, identify things in which you need to improve, accept those and try to make a change.

What actor would play him in a movie: “Mike Epps. I enjoy every movie he has made and his stand-up comedy.”

What would he want for a last meal: “It has to be seafood. I’m a big lobster and shrimp man.”

Biggest challenge for the year ahead: First it’s to beat Wisconsin, Adams said. After that, he thinks it’s believing in the process toward possibly becoming a NFL player. “My aspirations for the NFL are definitely within view.”

Biggest hope for 2017: “That I can take care of my family (drafted or not),” said Adams, who is scheduled to graduate this spring with a degree in criminal justice. “They can’t take that certificate away from me. That’s the biggest thing I’m looking for.”

Who he’ll be watching in 2017: Adams says he’ll be pulling for both Hargrave and Smith and has been especially happy to see what Hargrave has been able to accomplish in his first NFL season.

His reaction to being chosen for the “10 to Watch” list: “It humbled me to be honest,’ Adams said, and he hopes it represents something positive for young kids here at home. “They don’t have to settle for anything less than they desire … you don’t have to go off track by naysayers and curveballs thrown at you.”