Playing in Detroit always a happy homecoming for #95 Adams
Playing in Detroit always a happy homecoming for Bears' Adams
Effervescent nose tackle has mostly fond memories of inner-city upbringing
The old hangout off Alter Road on Detroit's east side stands to this day.
Anthony Adams frequented Royal Skateland as a teen more than anywhere except the candy store. He'd pester his mother, Constance Davis, to clean his overalls every Friday. Davis recalled Adams once wrapping Christmas lights around his skates to bring added attention to himself.
One night at the roller rink, he was glad to be obscure.
It was 1993, and shootings were as common as falls inside the popular meeting place.
"Somebody had an argument with one of the guys at the door about getting in, and that person left, came back and started shooting up the place,'' said Adams, the Bears' nose tackle, who was 14 at the time. "There was an exit door and I'm playing a video game right by the door, and the guy is shooting from right there at the exit.
"I was all into my video game, but I turned around and saw that he shot somebody out on the rink. The victim ended up being OK, but it was crazy that it happened so close to me.''
Adams' story of growing up in a violent environment is similar to those of many inner-city kids. The difference is he enjoyed just about every moment of his Detroit upbringing despite that shooting and despite, at 4, watching his father go to prison for 24 years on an armed-robbery conviction.
"Just my experience growing up — from elementary school to middle school to high school — I just had a fun time, man,'' Adams said. "Yeah, we didn't have the biggest house or a nice car or any stuff like that, but we made the best of what we had.''
Adams, now married with two kids, spent a few hours reminiscing with his mother after the Bears arrived in Detroit on Saturday. The team hotel is inside the Renaissance Center — the same building where Davis once worked to support her only child.
"I always raised him to have the mindset that he could do anything,'' Davis said. "I think he listened.''
The 6-foot, 310-pound Adams, whose endless energy has given the Bears' front four a boost, gets to play Sunday at Ford Field, 10 miles from his old house on Somerset Avenue.
"Every time we go back to Detroit, it's special for Anthony,'' coach Lovie Smith
said. "He didn't say a whole lot about it this week, but I know it's going to be special for him again.''
Football was an afterthought for Adams, now in his eighth NFL season. He chose to attend Martin Luther King High School over his neighborhood school, Finney, because it had a better math and science program. Adams even studied Japanese in high school.
"I could carry a conversation in Japanese now,'' he said. "It just has to be very basic.''
He didn't talk football until his mother dropped him off at the field his freshman year. His only other football experience until then was playing "sideline pop'' between driveways in the neighborhood after he was declared too big for Pop Warner.
But in high school, everyone noticed the stocky 300-pounder who earned a scholarship to Penn State for the skills he showed playing linebacker at a summer camp.
His high school coaches asked Adams to throw the shot in track and field because of his mammoth size. The basketball coaches needed him to set screens on the JV team, but Adams proceeded to foul out of every game.
"He was the biggest kid in the class, so I figured he had to play football,'' said Ron Johnson, a close friend and former high school teammate of Adams and a former member of the Bears' practice squad. "He was definitely a gentle giant. He wasn't a bully or anything. But he did have these weird braids in his head when I first met him.''
Johnson's fondest memories of Adams had nothing to do with football. The guys used to call Adams "Spice 1'' after the rapper because of those braids. Then the nickname changed to "The Main Ingredient'' because Adams always seemed to spice up the atmosphere.
"His mom always blamed me because we'd always be in trouble,'' Johnson said. "He could have on his best sweater and jeans and he'd still slide on the dirty, dusty floors just to make someone laugh.''
Things haven't changed.
Adams remains the class clown in the Bears' locker room with his funky dance moves, silly impersonations and constant teasing of teammates. He now goes by "Double A'' — the nickname former 49ers teammate Bryant Young gave him — because he has more life than the Energizer Bunny.
"No doubt it's good to have a personality around like him,'' Smith said. "It's not like he's going to blend and just be gray any day.''
Some of the laughter Adams creates no doubt masks sadness inside. He had an emotional reunion with his father two years ago after the elder Adams was released from prison and saw his son play for the first time. Anthony Adams Sr. is trying to make a living as an artist.
Adams' last trip to Detroit was far from joyous. His aunt died in August, and on the day of her funeral, his grandfather died as his mother went to pick him up for the service.
Adams' grandmother had a stroke this year and is in a Detroit-area nursing home. He planned to visit her Saturday evening.
"My mother calls Anthony 'Sug' because he's her little sugar,'' Davis said. "Her eyes get real wide whenever she sees him.''
During his second NFL season, Adams bought his mother a house in suburban Macomb Township after someone broke into her Ford Explorer and swiped the airbags while she watched from the window. He wanted to make sure she was in a safe environment.
"I miss her,'' Adams said. "I'm 30 years old with my own family, but I do miss her.''
No wonder they voted Adams "Mama's Boy'' his senior year of high school.