Zephyrhills quarterback James Adamo, who guided the Bulldogs to a district championship and first-round playoff victory, has accepted a scholarship and signed with Prairie View A&M, a Division I-AA school in Texas.
"He likes what they were offering, and they really like him," Zephyrhills coach Tom Fisher said Thursday. "He likes to throw the ball a lot, and that's what they're going to be doing there."
Adamo, a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder who threw for 1,051 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior, had considered other offers from smaller programs but signed with the Panthers last week after making an official visit to the campus, near Houston. The talented left-hander, who could not be reached for comment, first drew recruiting interest with an impressive showing at last spring's Nike camp in Miami.
Prairie View is perhaps best known for an 80-game losing streak, the longest in the NCAA, which ended in 1998. For years, the athletic department allotted 15 scholarships for football. Starting this fall, the school's athletic director is committed to a full 63 scholarships, including 25 this year, making Adamo a part of the program's aggressive rebuilding.
Prairie View's first-year coach, C.L. Whittington, is an alumnus who played four seasons in the NFL as a defensive back with the Houston Oilers, and Adamo's offensive coordinator will be Donald Hollas, who once backed up Boomer Esiason in Cincinnati and threw 10 touchdowns for the Raiders in 1998.
Whittington's staff came in three weeks before signing day, making recruiting a difficult process, but Adamo is one athlete about which the Panthers are excited. Hollas was cleaning out tapes submitted to the former coaching staff and popped Adamo's into his VCR. All 12 of the Panthers' initial signings came from Texas, so the thought of landing a recruit from talent-rich Florida intrigued Hollas.
"When I saw the tape, I was shocked," he said. "I couldn't believe he was still out there. We are certainly pleasantly surprised that James is going to be a Prairie View Panther."
Prairie View finished 1-11 last season, last in the Southwest Athletic Conference, but their schedule boasts many of Division I-AA's most recognized schools. The Panthers, who will open a new stadium in 2004, will face Mississippi Valley State and Jackson State, where Jerry Rice and Walter Payton played, respectively, as well as Alcorn State, which Steve McNair helped put on the map. They play Grambling in the Cotton Bowl each season, face Tennessee State in The Coliseum, home to the NFL's Titans, and play host to Texas Southern in Reliant Stadium, home of the Texans.
The school's starting quarterback graduated, leaving no returning players with game experience. Adamo is the only quarterback in the current recruiting class. While Hollas said he'd like to add one more incoming freshman, the Zephyrhills star has a chance to compete for the Panthers' starting job.
"He's a very heady football player, and he's a good fit for what we're doing," Hollas said. "He's an accurate passer who can make all the throws in the book. If he comes in and plays like we know he can, he'll be in the middle of a very open competition."