Adam Plant Jr. still remembers playing his first football game in the city of Las Vegas at All-American Park.
The 8-year-old was playing in a jamboree game, switching between offensive and defensive line. Lined up at left tackle, an edge rusher blazed off the line of scrimmage and hit Plant Jr. right in the chin. It was the hardest physical contact he'd endured up to that point in his life. He wasn't sure if football was still for him and he damn sure didn't want to finish the game.
"I started tearing up a little bit," he said. "But then my dad was like, 'Man, you get back out there!' I sat out for a little bit and then I was like, 'You know what, eventually I've got to get this done. I can't just let everyone keep hitting me.' I went back in a couple of series later. It was still a little rough, but I made sure I persevered and finished through."
Adam Plant Sr. also still remembers that game clear as day. A former player himself who spent one season with the BC Lions in the Canadian Football League and also signed with the Kansas City Chiefs briefly for a Training Camp, Plant Sr. still chuckles when reminiscing on his son trying to tap out mid game. But he also realizes it was a turning point in his son's football career.
"He took his helmet off and started running toward me and started yelling, 'Dad, he hit me!' And I said, 'Boy, get your butt back in the game'," said Plant Sr. "And he got back in the game, stopped crying and [in the] second half he came out and he was a monster. I think he even had a sack in the second half. It was on from there."
"That's when he discovered he loved to hit," added Tamika Plant, his mother. "He said, 'Daddy, I want to be a hitter. I want to hit.' And from then on, that's where he stayed."
The Plant family has been in the Las Vegas Valley for nearly 20 years, with his parents opening Tasty T's Cheesecakes in 2019. The 23-year-old has modeled his work ethic and drive after the people who raised him.
"Whether it was his lifting or his mentorship or how he worked to provide for us, seeing how he was as a man, I wanted to stand on that," Plant Jr. said of his father's guidance growing up. "Having someone like that at a early age in your corner showing you the ropes – at times when you're a kid, you don't really understand fully, but as I've grown up and matured more I've started to appreciate those lessons and things he tried to teach me at a early age."
After that second-half sack at 8 years old, plenty more would come for the younger Plant as he became a full-time defensive end, solidifying himself as one of the top players in Las Vegas and across the nation. He attended Bishop Gorman High School, where he helped the team to four NIAA 4A State Championships and a National Championship in 2016.
He was a four-star prospect with a First Team All-State selection and played on Gaels teams that consisted of current NFL players Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Cedric Tillman, Brevin Jordan, Kyu Blu Kelly and Bubba Bolden.
"Those years throughout high school, we never took those days for granted," the rookie said. "We enjoyed every moment of it. Whenever we get back together, we talk about the great times we had together and how fun it was and how we were able to have a high school career like we did. It was very fun to be a part of that."
After graduating from Bishop Gorman, he committed to the University of Arizona. However, he ultimately took his talents to TCU for his freshman year. He spent the season with the Horned Frogs, but his desire to get more playing time grew.
He entered the transfer portal and the UNLV Rebels emerged as an intriguing option with the opportunity to return home and play for a coaching staff that already knew him well.
Plant Jr. immediately became a contributor for the Rebels defense upon returning to Las Vegas. In 28 collegiate games, he racked up 15 sacks and 27.5 tackles for loss. His senior season, he led the team in sacks and earned an All-Mountain West Football Second Team selection. Needless to say, he became a fan favorite in Allegiant Stadium on Saturdays.
"A lot of great moments and a lot of hard times," Plant Jr. said of his UNLV days. "There's a lot of things people don't see behind closed doors. We had to really lean on each other, especially these last three years I was with the team. Ultimately, I think regardless of what our records were, I think that was the most family oriented team I've ever been a part of to this point."
The rookie edge rusher now has a few more opportunities to play in Allegiant Stadium after signing with the Raiders as a UDFA. The Silver and Black got a good look at him during their local Pro Day.
"In football you always get word of mouth here and there," Plant Sr. said. "When his agent called and told him on the third day of the draft [about the Raiders' interest], we knew it was a strong possibility that they were going to get him. As it got to the sixth and seventh round, we thought he might go to the Falcons because they had been calling a lot, but his agent was like, 'Look, the Raiders are ready to pull the trigger.'"
While Plant Jr. may have an uphill battle as a UDFA to make the 53-man roster, he's already received praise from the likes of veteran leader Chandler Jones and defensive coordinator Patrick Graham.
"One of the positives, obviously the size," said Graham. "You want to have some size down there in terms of length, he has that. Really anytime you hear about the positive vibes and stuff, it's because guys are working hard."
Plant Jr. described being able to live out his football dreams in Las Vegas as similar to being a create-a-player on a video game. It's something that he doesn't take for granted. He's gone from seeing Jones and Maxx Crosby play on Sundays to seeking advice from them on the practice field and in the classroom.
Now as the preseason approaches, he has the opportunity to continue what's been a fairytale story to this point.
"It's exciting being able to be a part of an organization that's arguably the greatest organization in the history of the NFL and what they stand for," he said. "For them to look at me and say, 'We think you could be a great part of this and a great fit in our family' – there's nothing more you could ask for."
View photos of fans enjoying the second week of the Silver and Black's 2023 Training Camp.