His NFL football jersey may say "Indianapolis Colts", but that didn't stop Michael Adams from scoring points with New York students from Harlem. The Pro Bowler, who has competed in the Super bowl and spent more than 10 years in the National Football League, fielded questions from students on a rainy March morning. Despite a thriving career and a busy home life as a husband and father of two, Mike "Pops" Adams believes it is his work "off the field" that makes the greatest difference.
Adams spent more than three hours speaking with students at the Dwyer Cultural Center. The 34-year-old grew up just 12 miles away in Paterson, N.J. and knows about struggles and the streets. His mother died of cancer when she was just 38 years old and he never knew his father until he was a grown man. Still -- he says he is "grateful" and "blessed" because it what his environment that shaped him and inspired him to do better.
Mike Adams recently finished his 11th season in the NFL, something that one student pointed out is "pretty awesome" considering the average football career is typically around three years. But it hasn't always been easy. There was a time when Adams didn't get drafted and he thought he may be benched forever.
"Football knocks you down. There are missed passes and hard tackles. You have two choices -- just like in life. You can get mad and throw the ball to the ground or you can get back up," Adams told the crowd.
Adams attributes his good fortune to discipline, focus and work. He admits he's also been lucky that he wasn't plagued by any major injuries. But perhaps his greatest inspiration came is what crowds see just above #29: His last name "Adams."
"When I run out on the field, my name is on my back. That's my family and I want to make them proud," he says.
Adams challenged the students to remember that when they are in the classroom. They carry their family's name and they should do so with pride and be their best.
There were also quite a few dignitaries in the audience as well, including the Harlem Jets, which placed #1 in the 2014 Champions Pioneer Football League, and Congressman Charles Rangel. The Harlem native is the second-longest currently serving member of the House of Representatives, serving since 1971 and says at the age of 84, he has been knocked down quite a few times, too. He presented a Congressional Award to Mike Adams thanking him for being a "hero on and off the field."
"I'm almost 85 years old," Rangel said to the students. "Do you know how many times I got knocked down? It isn't how many times I got knocked down, it's how many times I got back up."
With his usual bright smile, the Congressman who was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor for his actions in the Korean War, posed for numerous photos with Adams making an otherwise dreary March day a memory of a lifetime for some special young boys and girls.
The event was sponsored by The Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Dwyer Cultural Center, Sheltering Arms Children & Family Services, New York City Parks and Recreation and The 142nd Street Block Association. Additional thanks to Roberto Barreto, Manhattan Deputy Chief of Recreation, Lee Kirk and Karen Horry.