Cornerback Michael Adams flips into the end zone after saving a punt from crossing the goalline Sunday night against the Saints.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – From the time he was in sixth grade Michael Adams started telling people he was going to play in the NFL.
In college – small Louisiana-Lafayette – he wasn't shy about telling women his plan either, but only after they turned him down for a date. "You are blocking your blessing," a smiling Adams recalled saying, "because I am going pro."
Adams was right, of course. The cornerback is trying to reach a sixth season with the Cardinals, despite being just a listed 5-foot-8 and acknowledging he is a little smaller. He tends to be either loved or hated by the fan base because of his shortcomings, but he has become a survivor through his special teams play and work ethic.
Which, in Adams' mind, doesn't make his NFL life any different than the rest of his life.
"When you are short, everyone tries you," Adams said. "Everyone wants to pick on the little guy. The only way to get them up off of you is to fight back. Same way I am now."
The highs and lows of Adams' professional life have been in display in a couple of moments this week. Sunday night against the Saints, Adams made a fantastic dive near the goal line to save Dave Zastudil's punt – a record 79-yarder for the Hall of Fame game – from going in the end zone.
Then at practice Tuesday against the Chiefs, a frustrated Adams was in perfect position in front of Jon Baldwin during 7-on-7 drills, only to have Baldwin go up over Adams' head to snare a catch.
The next day, Adams just shakes his head. "I know what they are thinking, 'Aww, he's short, he can't make those plays,' " he said. "In my mind I know I can make it. I just have to get mad but then forget about it and come back. If it happens again, I am pretty sure I can make that play."
Will Adams still have that chance with the Cards? Given who he is, Adams knows life as a pro is a year-to-year proposition. He remains the No. 1 nickel cornerback, even with a ton of quality corners in camp, and his special teams work cannot be overlooked.
The special teams is the tangible part of Adams' game noted by coach Ken Whisenhunt, who kept a rookie Adams on the practice squad in Whisenhunt's first year as Arizona's coach. But it isn't the first.
"The thing that stands out is his fight," Whisenhunt said. "He's a very competitive guy, whether it is in practice or in the games. He has made a significant contribution for us special-teams wise. One of the things we say before camp every year is there will be players here because of their special teams. He's a good gunner, he works hard on punt return.
"Every aspect you put him in, he plays big."
Whisenhunt made the comment without a hint of irony.
The Cardinals drafted a defensive back – Justin Bethel – who could conceivably take Adams' place on special teams (if the Cards don't want to play them together). They drafted a cornerback – Jamell Fleming – who is expected to cut his teeth as a nickel back.
Former teammate Steve Breaston, the Chiefs wide receiver who was in Adams' recent wedding, joked that he told one of the Cardinals Tuesday "You've got to lay off the little fella."
Not that Adams needs the help. "He's always working, man," Breaston said.
One of Adams' mentors is former Cardinals cornerback Ralph Brown. Brown, at 5-foot-10, wasn't much bigger than Adams. He lasted 10 years in the NFL. That's the number Adams is shooting for, the point at which he'd be satisfied.
Halfway there already, but Adams has a long way left to go. But his message to the ladies back in school has rung true.
"Every day I think about how blessed I am," Adams said. "Going on six years now, a 5-7 corner from a small school? I think about that every day.
"But at the end of the day, I'm supposed to be here if I am here."