RENTON, WA - A five-star recruit coming out of Hebron High School in Carrollton, Texas, Jamal Adams was a sought after commodity by many of the nation's top collegiate programs. He received offers from 25 FBS schools all across the country, including Oklahoma, Oregon, USC, and Notre Dame.
While most of those programs didn't even receive a visit from Adams, he quickly narrowed his list down to four choices. Among those who became a serious contender to land the star safety, Texas had positioned itself as a front-runner and the native Texan visited the university multiple times while trying to decide where he would sign his letter of intent.
On one of those visits, Adams was hosted by current Seahawks free safety Quandre Diggs, who was starring for the Longhorns at the time. He showed him around campus with hopes he could persuade the young talent to come to Austin.
“Quandre really wanted me to come very, very bad," Adams told reporters in a press conference earlier this month. "We had a great time on Sixth Street – I’ll never forget it, we had a great time.”
Despite Diggs' pleas, Adams ultimately opted to go to Baton Rouge and play for LSU. But even after he made the difficult choice, the two players remained friends and have maintained a tight bond ever since.
When Adams first entered the NFL with the Jets, Diggs would consistently reach out to him to critique his play. And they always wondered what it would be like to someday play together after it didn't happen at Texas.
“He’d hit me up and say ‘I like that play you made,’ I’ll hit him and say ‘you ballin’ out there,’" Adams commented. "We always talk. He’s like a brother to me. We’ve known each other for a very long time. We always talked about ‘what if we played together?’”
Much to the delight of both players, that dream became a reality shortly before the start of training camp. Dealing multiple first-round picks, a third-round pick, and Bradley McDougald to the Jets, Adams arrived in the Pacific Northwest as part of the biggest blockbuster trade in Seahawks history. Against the wishes of his agent, he excitedly called Diggs in the moments after learning the trade was in the works.
As Diggs will attest after being traded to Seattle midway through the 2019 season, players typically face a learning curve settling in with a new team. They must develop chemistry with their new teammates on the field while quickly trying to digest a new playbook. And those are just the on-field changes happening as they uproot their families to go to a new city.
But since the start of training camp practices on August 12, Adams has looked right at home in the Seahawks secondary. From day one, he's been flying all over the field making plays, sprinting from the sidelines to celebrate with teammates, and clearly having a blast with his new team.
While Adams' quick acclimation has happened in part due to his work ethic coupled with outstanding physical skills and instincts, it hasn't hurt to have a close friend as his safety counterpart in Diggs by his side either.
"He comes in, he works his tail off, he brings the energy," Diggs said on Friday. "Guys respect him and he does his thing each and every day, so it hasn't got to that level [where I have to get on him]."
When he came to the Pacific Northwest last October, Diggs wasted little time becoming the alpha dog of a young secondary. Aside from McDougald, he was the most seasoned veteran of the group in just his fifth NFL season with youngsters such as Shaquill Griffin, Tre Flowers, and Marquise Blair looking to him for leadership.
Diggs quickly embraced such a role and once he entered the lineup in Week 10, the Seahawks won four of their next five games, producing 16 turnovers during that span. The former Longhorn was responsible for five of those on his own, including a pick-six against Jared Goff and the Rams.
Now the elder statesmen of the secondary at 27 years of age with McDougald in New York, though Adams is several years younger than him, he believes it's "dope" the two revered safeties can hold each other accountable while sharing leadership responsibilities in the secondary.
"Those guys really look up to me to use my voice and to say things," Diggs remarked. "But to have him here, somebody that's well respected around the league, an All-Pro and a Pro Bowler, an even better person than he is a football player. It's great bringing him into the room and knowing he can hold me accountable and I can hold him accountable also."
With Diggs teaming up with Adams, a Pro Bowler in Griffin, the cornerback tandem of Quinton Dunbar and Tre Flowers, and an emerging Blair, the Seahawks' revamped defensive backfield has the talent and depth to return to the ranks of the league's elite.
But before crowning them as the next "Legion of Boom," Diggs was quick to slam the brakes on the hype train, indicating the group still must prove itself worthy of such praise in game action.
"The potential is high, but I mean, potential can get you beat also if we're not prepared and ready to go," Diggs warned. "I'm not really buying into the hype, I don't think the guys in this secondary are buying the hype. We're all about work, myself included. I don't want to hear about who is the best duo, who is the best secondary, that stuff is all out the window."
"Until we go out [with] that lineup Week 1 against Matt Ryan, Julio [Jones], Todd Gurley... that's the only way we're gonna prove ourselves and prove how good we can be."
With less than three weeks until the season opener against those Falcons, the clock is ticking for the Seahawks new-look secondary to gel. As Diggs noted, plenty of work remains to be done and they are far from where they ultimately want to be, especially after not having offseason activities or preseason games.
Nonetheless, Diggs is ecstatic to finally be teammates with Adams nearly a decade after their first encounter at Texas. If the dynamic playmaking tandem performs as they've done throughout camp and the rest of the group feeds off their energy and talent, the Seahawks have all the components necessary to fulfill their immense potential.