NORWALK — Evan Adams has had many blessings over the years. There’s the size and athletic ability which helped him become a star football lineman while at Norwalk High, as well as a determined spirit which carried him to central New York for a four-year career and a college diploma at Syracuse University.
Adams’ greatest blessing is much closer to home and heart: A large and supportive family which has stood by him every step of the way.
“I never run out of people to call,” Adams said. “If I’m having a bad day, I can call anybody and they’ll dig me out. They’re always there to be my biggest supporters, and they always look out for me and make sure that I’m good.”
Adams and his family have plenty to celebrate, as the lineman signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens on April 25.
A 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive guard for Syracuse, Adams earned an undergraduate degree in human development and family science before getting ready for a possible shot at the NFL.
“I’ve been training for this moment my entire life and it’s been a long journey to get to where I am now,” Adams said. “Luckily I’ve been able to maintain my status as an athlete through hard work and dedication, and having the right people around me who care about me, take care of me, and hold me to my convictions and my core beliefs.
“The whole experience of getting picked up by the Ravens has just been one of those things you pray for your whole life and now it’s come to fruition.”
Adams said he had been contacted by several teams during the months leading up to the draft, but the Ravens had shown the most interest. They were also first to contact him after the draft, something which was important in Adams’ decision to sign.
“The Ravens had a specific interest in me that I valued,” he said. “I could see that intensity from them and that’s what I wanted. After the draft, they were the first team to contact me and let me know that they wanted me bad enough, so I went with them.”
Adams is one of six Syracuse football players who have joined NFL teams this spring. Picked in the draft were DL Alton Robinson (Seattle) and P/PK Sterling Hofrichter (Atlanta), with Adams, WR Trishton Jackson (Los Angeles), WR Sean Riley (New England), and DL Kendall Coleman (Indianapolis) signing free agent contracts.
While at Syracuse, Adams made 146 career knockdown blocks on the O-line, and helped the Orange compile a 10-3 record during his junior season in 2018.
More importantly, he was able to get his diploma, fulfilling a promise he had made more than a decade ago to his father, Ernest, who passed away with lung cancer in February of 2007.
Adams said his connection with his dad goes far beyond that promise.
“It’s less about getting the diploma and more about being the man that my father could be proud of,” Adams said. “If I was half the man my father was, I know I’d be all right. I just strive to be the man he’d be proud of.”
The family ties run deep for Adams. His mom, Alisa, has nine siblings, all of whom are, in his words, among his “biggest supporters.”
Then there are the friends and teammates who Adams also refers to as family.
“I have people from high school who I played football with, and friends from college, and they’re still family,” Adams said. “I have brothers for the rest of my life, who I can call on any time I need them. They’re not related to me, but they’re definitely family.”
Adams and fellow Norwalk alum James Makszin, a defensive lineman at the University of Rhode Island, have also maintained a close friendship and have worked out together while preparing for football seasons.
Currently, the Ravens have had their players training from home via Zoom, as the NFL deals with the social distancing necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic. What shape the NFL preseason, and the 2020-21 regular season will eventually take, is still undetermined, so players are getting ready as best they can.
“It’s definitely difficult, but you just have to find another way to work out and do what you’re supposed to do,” Adams said. “The Ravens’ coaches are letting us know what we should do, and they’re doing a great job working with us. It’s not the best situation, but you’ve got to tough through it.”
Whatever shape the future takes, Adams intends to approach it the same way he has with everything else: With determination.
“Tomorrow’s not guaranteed, especially in the sport I’m playing,” Adams said. “I’ve been blessed to come out of Norwalk as a dominant athlete, get a college degree, and work hard to get to where I am.
“My philosophy is to have integrity, do what you’re supposed to do when nobody’s looking and you know what? It’ll turn out all right.”
NORWALK’S NFL PLAYERS
Adams is the latest of several Norwalk athletes to get their shot in the NFL.
Quarterback Todd Philcox, a Norwalk High graduate from the mid-1980s, also went to Syracuse and then had a nine-year NFL career for several teams, starting with Cincinnati and ending with New England.
Going back further are two more Norwalk High graduates, as Roger Shoals was drafted by the Dallas Texans and played nine seasons in the NFL (1963-71), and Bob “Rivets” Miller was drafted by Detroit and played for the Lions from 1952 to 1958.
Brien McMahon’s Idris Price was in the NFL for the 2002-03 season, and was with Tampa Bay when the Buccaneers won Super Bowl XXXVII.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, a KLHT graduate, was drafted by Seattle in 2014 and is now with Washington.
Silas Redd, another KLHT graduate, played for the Redskins (2014-16).
UConn standout Noel Thomas, who went to Norwalk High for two years before heading to St. Luke’s in New Canaan, was with Detroit in 2017, and was with the Ottawa Redblacks of the Canadian Football League for the 2018-19 season.