Senior offensive tackle Jeff Adams was unable to suit up for the final game of his college career. Had Adams been like almost all Columbia football players, that final game would have been his last opportunity to play organized football for the rest of his life. But Jeff Adams isn't like most Columbia football players—he has a legitimate shot of being selected in this April's NFL Draft. This is a rare opportunity for a member of Columbia's football program. The last football player to be drafted out of Columbia was defensive end Marcellus Wiley, who was selected by the Buffalo Bills in the second round of the 1997 Draft. Adams has been an anchor for the Lions at the left tackle position for the past three seasons. In 2011, Adams earned first-team all-Ivy League honors for the third straight season and was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press. Over the past five years, 20 offensive tackles, on average, have been selected in the seven rounds of the NFL Draft. Adams is generally ranked as one of the top 15-25 offensive tackle prospects in this year's draft class. For the past four months, Adams has been hard at work trying to convince NFL scouts that he is an investment worth making. Adams has a few advantages over other prospective players. First, he has the size to play in the NFL. Adams is listed at 6'6, weighs 308, and has a wingspan of 81.5 inches and big hands. Second, he is surprisingly athletic for an offensive lineman. "I have the frame," Adams said. "Everybody always says you can't teach height or length. I have the natural gift of just having it. My biggest strength is my athleticism, though. I run pretty fast and jump pretty high. My athleticism bails me out when I screw something up." Given his size, Adams might be an intriguing prospect for an offensive line coach willing to take the time to improve his technique and help him get stronger. Pro Football Weekly believes that Adams has "intriguing developmental potential." While pro teams watch films of prospects' playing throughout their college careers, many place more emphasis on how each player "measures up." Players perform numerous drills and take tests so NFL teams can measure each player's height, weight, speed, quickness, strength, athleticism, and even intelligence. In order to make the best possible impression, Adams—like all NFL prospects—needs to perfect the proper technique for the barrage of drills and tests scouts use to evaluate each player. After recovering from a minor knee injury sustained at the end of last season, Adams traveled to Bradenton, Fla., to attend a week-long camp at the IMG Madden Football Academy to improve his conditioning and begin preparing for drills. "I began working on combine preparation," Adam said. "We had the week off for reading week so I was able to go down there and get a head start because our season ended early. I was able to start training pretty much before everyone else." In January, Adams was invited to compete in the East-West Shrine Game and the weeklong series of practices in St. Petersburg, Fla. It was an important opportunity for Adams to prove that he could play against some of the nation's top defensive linemen in front of hundreds of scouts. "It was a great experience," Adams said. "The whole field is surrounded by scouts, so if you make a mistake everybody is going to see it. There was a lot of pressure to perform well." Adams was excited for the opportunity and pleased with his consistent performance, especially in practice. "Despite what everyone thinks, the practices are the most important thing," Adams said. "The practices can help you or hurt you, and for me it helped. I was able to focus in and perform well the whole week. For me it was how well you can play against guys from teams like Florida and USC." After finishing his week of training in Florida, Adams began working out at the Parisi Speed School in Fair Lawn, N.J., and the Test Sports Club in Martinsville, N.J. For a stretch of time, he drove back and forth across the George Washington Bridge every day to train in the morning and go to class in the afternoon. "For 10 weeks I was training over in New Jersey," Adams said. "I had two training sessions a day, which added up to about four hours. My classes are in the afternoon, so I was able to drive back and go to class regardless of how tired I was." During these sessions, Adams worked alongside other NFL prospects to try to perfect his drill technique for his pro day. Adams held two pro days for interested NFL teams. On March 8, Adams worked out in front of 25 teams at Northwestern University. Last week, Adams tried to improve on his scores with another workout at the Baker Athletics Complex in front of representatives from the Jets. Since his pro days, Adams has been taking calls from teams interested in learning more about him, and working to stay in shape in case they want to see him work out. "Right now, I'm just sitting and waiting," Adams said. A number of NFL teams have already shown interest in Adams. The Miami Dolphins called to interview him last week, the New York Jets called on Monday to ask him to attend a workout, and the Cincinnati Bengals are flying him out for an interview. Even if Adams doesn't get drafted, he could be signed by any team as a free agent and still have the opportunity to make an NFL squad during training camp. The NFL Draft will be held from April 26 through April 28 at New York City's Radio City Music Hall.
Kate Scarbrough / Senior Staff Photographer