Once upon a time in East Palo Alto, California, Davante Adams was incidentally recruited to play at Fresno State University.
Incidentally, accidentally, fortunately – take your pick. The bottom line is Keith Williams, now the Baltimore Ravens pass game specialist, was not planning on recruiting Adams when he visited Palo Alto High School in the fall of 2010. He actually didn't even know Adams was on the team during his initial visit.
The former Fresno State receivers coach had come to Palo Alto High School in pursuit of another player he had his eyes on. It wasn't until he was tipped off by Palo Alto Vikings head coach Earl Hansen there was another receiver he should give a closer look.
"The kid you're coming to see is a good player," Williams recalls Hansen telling him. "But we have another kid, Davante Adams, he's a late bloomer in terms of football experience, but he's a heck of an athlete."
While Adams was a relatively unknown football prospect, he had made a name for himself as a two-sport star. Before he took his talents to the football field, he was a basketball junkie. He had played varsity guard for the basketball team since arriving on campus as a freshman, and he didn't consider playing football until he was an upperclassman.
With the limited timeframe, he had to make an impact in his new sport, and he didn't disappoint. Adams' senior season consisted of him starting at wide receiver and cornerback – finishing with 63 catches, 1,089 yards and 11 touchdowns – en route to an undefeated CIF Division I Championship season.
Despite the success, he was heavily recruited only by San Diego State and Fresno State. And even those two schools had difficulty obtaining Adams, with Williams being given some disappointing news from the school's registrars office.
"He had bad grades. He hadn't applied himself his first two years of high school," Williams said bluntly. "He was still bouncing back from the hole he put himself in. He hadn't qualified yet going into the final semester of his senior season, he still hadn't qualified yet academically. Even the schools that knew about him probably were a little hesitant because of where he was academically at that point."
"My junior and senior year in high school, I had to really dig deep, and I took like eight classes my last year while people were taking four and already knowing where they are going to the school," Adams recalled of his early struggles during his introductory press conference. "[Williams] was one of the ones that was there supporting my mom. She's crying like, 'I just really want my son to make it. He didn't apply himself. He's incredibly smart, but he was not applying himself his first two years in high school.'
"I love telling this story because it's good for people to hear, for the young people to hear, to know that it's never too late, especially if you have a great support system like what I do."
The poor grades weren't enough to scare away Williams, who wanted to see if there was more to Adams' situation.
"I went and found him and we talked," Williams said of meeting Adams. "From the energy, from the vibe, his body language, his presence, the way he was looking me in the eye, he was articulate. He wasn't shy, any of that stuff. I just had a hunch for this guy, that he just didn't apply himself. We've all been there. It's not how you start, it's how you finish. And I could tell right then, it wasn't anything wrong with him, he just needed to apply himself and get around the right people and get around the right leadership to catch him and push him.
"After I had that first conversation with him, I knew he was going to be OK."
Adams, after an eight years and counting career in the league, is still grateful that Williams gave him the benefit of the doubt – while many didn't during the self-described downward spiral he was going through.
"With recruiting, you move around and talk to a lot of kids," Adams told Raiders.com, "and you can talk to someone and tell if they're not very bright, if they're not very sharp as far as understanding how everything goes. So I think [Williams] was able to realize, 'This dude is actually legit smart, he's just not applying himself in the classroom.' That's the difference. It's time to see if I can really reach and get all of that out of him, and he does that better than anyone I think I've met.
"I'm forever indebted to him for doing that because who knows if I'd even be here right now," continued Adams. "I had to make a quick turnaround and it wasn't easy."
After Adams arrived to Fresno State, he redshirted his freshman year in order to become academically eligible to play for the team. While Adams wasn't on the field playing, he was still working behind the scenes to make things happen. Sharpening his work ethic, attending community college classes for credits and of course, building a chemistry with his teammates.
Keith Williams was adamant that the young man he went to bat for would not fail.
"It's not every day I was getting on him, but it's every day you're trying to guide him," said Williams. Every day in a positive way, in a critical way or in a challenging way – but it's every day you're guiding him. Whether it's direct, subtle, more than once in the same subject or topic doesn't matter. It's just every day."
That season, Williams helped set Adams up for the success that soon followed. Williams would never get the opportunity to coach his beloved prospect on the field at Bulldog Stadium. Before the start of Adams' redshirt freshman season, Williams left Fresno to become the receivers coach at Tulane.
Yet the wheels had already begun to turn for Adams.
"As far as meeting someone and being able to pull the best out of them and maximize themselves in a short amount of time – that's why he's a great coach," said Adams. "Because he's not going to let you be lazy. You might be lazy your whole life – he's not going to let you be that way.
"Fact is, I slacked off before I had to make up for a lot of lost ground, and made it happen."