Derrick Adams was a Cincinnati Bearcat between 1998 and 2002. After a redshirt season in ’98, he went on to become one of the UC captains in ’02 when the Bearcats were Conference USA co-champions.
To refresh your memory, your other captains that season were Blue Adams, Kirt Doolin, Willis Edwards, Josh Gardner and Tye Keith.
2002 included the notorious loss to Ohio State at Paul Brown Stadium; the infamous first Hawaii game; the rescheduled win at East Carolina for a bowl bid; and the unfortunate ending just 11 days later in the New Orleans Bowl.
Adams was also part of UC’s 1999 win over then No. 9 Wisconsin and Ron Dayne and that year’s Ohio State loss the following week where UC led 17-3 at one point.
"We always played up pretty good to our competition," Adams said. "The Buckeyes, Wisconsin, the West Virginia teams. It was a solid team when we were there."
Recruited as a linebacker out of Solon High School, Adams moved to defensive line in his first active season and was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team.
He was a mainstay from there, but you may have missed him since he played with future NFL players Trent Cole, Andre Frazier, Mario Monds, Antwan Peek and Mike Wright on those lines. Guys like Ben Piening, Daryll Ransom and Kirk Thompson weren’t too shabby either.
When I interviewed Adams prior to a game on UC’s Campus Green, I teased him about his current “war stories”. I told him he should tell his kids that his pro teammates got their publicity because he was taking on two linemen at a time.
"I wish I was that good," Adams said laughing. "They were probably taking on two. They were just good man."
When you think about it, the Bearcats have had some impressive defensive lineman. Derek Wolfe is now wreaking havoc in Denver and there are several of his predecessors still playing on Sundays.
"Connor Barwin came along and was really good," Adams said. "I was fortunate when I played to play with a lot of great ones. Everyone my senior year almost got drafted. I played with (Andre) Frazier, (Trent) Cole and Antwan Peek. They (recent linemen) have to do a lot to show me a lot because I played with some great guys."
Adams also played with great coaches. In addition to having three future NFL head coaches on his UC staffs, Rick Minter was also able to hire coaches who went on to what were then considered bigger jobs at bigger programs.
"We were lucky to have a bunch of great coaches," Adams said. "It's unfortunate they never were able to stay very long. We had a lot of great guys come through."
Current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was around during Derrick’s Adams years at UC, while his line coach was a former Pittsburgh Steeler who commanded instant respect.
"My favorite D-line coach is coach (Keith) Willis," Adams said. "I think he's at NC State right now. He went to Boston College for awhile. He made us disciplined. He made us play the run. He made us play the pass. He was like a father figure for some of the guys."
For now, Adams lives in the Beavercreek area near Dayton and is not too far from home games, which he often attends with former teammate Willis Edwards. Like many that played a decade ago, he’s enjoying the national success and notoriety the program has gained in recent years.
"I like the defense," Adams said. "They fly around. Offenses at UC are always well. They're going to throw it around and run it sometimes."
If you see a decent-sized guy wearing a vintage UC No. 93 at a game, it might be Derrick Adams.
He’s one of many that worked in the trenches to help build the foundation of what you see now.