INDIANAPOLIS — Rodney Adams touched the sky Saturday, and with every inch, he lifted the spirits of children and teenagers who have recently suffered the death of a parent, sibling or primary caregiver by helping to provide a one-week retreat at Experience Camps.
Adams' workout took place at the NFL scouting combine, where the former Lakewood High and USF receiver hoped to soar higher as a draft prospect.
He had a very good day. After running 4.44 seconds in the 40-yard dash, he caught the football well during drills before scouts and coaches at Lucus Oil Stadium.
Entering Saturday, Adams was 85 percent to his goal of $91 per vertical inch in an effort to raise $3,000 through donations and pledges for each vertical inch through pledgit.org. Before he took flight for a vertical jump of 29.5 inches, he had collected enough from 48 donors to fulfill his promise.
The purpose of the program is very close to Adams' heart. His mother, Michelle Conway Scott, died at age 37. She had traveled to Atlanta in November 2013 to visit relatives when the car she was a passenger in crashed. Adams' cousin was behind the wheel of the gray Dodge Charger that lost control, hit another vehicle from behind and came to rest in a ditch. He was charged with DUI and first-degree vehicular homicide.
At the time of his mother's death, Adams was a freshman football player at the University of Toledo. Needing to be around loved ones, he transferred to USF near his St. Petersburg hometown and was granted a hardship waiver to play immediately without having to sit out a season per NCAA rules.
"It was hard. I was kind of lost," Adams said. "I'm not going to lie. It was tough. I didn't want to go back (to Toledo). I needed to be at home and around family. I needed time to refocus and get my life together."
Adams' decision to go to USF provided more comfort. His receivers coach was former Florida State standout Ron Dugans, who played three seasons with the Bengals. Dugans lost his 8-year-old daughter, Ronshay, in 2008 when the school bus she was traveling in collided with a cement truck.
"He could really relate to everything I was going through," Adams said. "And he was one of the main people I would lean on when I was dealing with what happened with my mom. We shared all our experiences, and it helped me get through a really difficult time. He was my go-to guy, when I needed something or had something I wanted to talk about.
"It was great for me to come back home, dealing with those circumstances. It was great to help put USF back on the map where it used to be."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Adams is part of a deep draft class of receivers that include Clemson's Mike Williams, Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Washington's John Ross, all of whom are likely on Tampa Bay's radar.
Adams earned an invitation to the combine with an outstanding 2016 senior season in which he broke the Bulls single-season record for receptions with 67 and matched his career high with 822 receiving yards. He is projected as a third- or fourth-round pick.
But elevating his draft stock is secondary to spotlighting children who have lost a loved one.
"It's the need I felt, and having children that go through that, it's not easy at all," Adams said. "It's not. And I just want to let them know that they're not alone in that process. I dealt with it, and you can overcome it and still have dreams to chase. I'm still chasing mine."
Adams was nervous when Saturday dawned and it was time for the receivers to perform. 'I'm a pretty good receiver as well," Adams said. "I've just got to go out and do it."
Although he did only eight reps of 225 pounds on the bench press — among the fewest at his position — Adams blazed to one of the best 40 times of the week, cementing his status as a player who can take the top off a defense. During the field work, Adams started slowly. He dropped a deep ball on one of his early repetitions. But he rebounded quickly and ran the gauntlet drill, displaying quickness and good hands.
"It's crazy, but it's a great experience. It's more than what I imagined," he said.
What would his mom think of Adams being on the doorstep of the NFL?
"She would be amazed," Adams said.