EAST LANSING - Less than 48 hours after Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi described his play this spring as worthy of a Big Ten Defensive Player of the year, and 24 hours removed from being selected first overall by his teammates in the Green-White game draft, Johnny Adams was surrounded by throng of reporters worthy of an All-American.
The 5-foot-11, 180-pound cornerback answered several questions with a wide grin. He sprinkled in a joke about rooting for the squad that drafted him, the Green Team, to win the annual spring game. The former Akron Buchtel standout exuded a quiet swagger that has not been present during past interaction with media.
Fifth-year senior Trenton Robinson has watched Adams transform himself from a trustworthy Big Ten starter to a budding superstar in the Spartan football program. Robinson expects Adams to carry his elite performance level this spring over to the playing field this fall.
"He could easily be that guy where a defense can say 'we don't really have to worry about Johnny' or 'leave that to Johnny, that is Johnny's side over there,'" explained Robinson. "And let us safeties roam around and do other things because we don't always have to be there over the top for Johnny. He is there, he is in position, and he is great off the line. It is awesome to see what he is doing right now."
Adams bears little resemblance to the defensive back that was struggling to get back into the flow of football last spring after accumulating a year's worth of rust away from the game in 2009.
"This spring it, the game, is slowing down a lot for me," explained Adams. "I have been moving faster, communicating a little bit more, I know the system a lot better."
Kirk Cousins, Robinson, and the rest of the Green Team seniors have been impressed enough with the way Adams this spring to make him their first overall selection in the 2011 Green-White draft.
"I am definitely excited about being the No. 1 pick," said Adams. "It just shows how my teammates look at me right now and coming into the spring. I don't want to let them down. I didn't expect that, but I am glad to be the No. 1 pick and it shows that my hard work has paid off in my teammates' eyes."
White team quarterback Andrew Maxwell will know where Adams is on every play. The former Midland (Mich.) High star has had enough run-ins with the junior defensive back to keep a watchful eye on the playmaking cornerback.
"He is a great corner and he has had a great spring," Maxwell said. "He is fast, he has good technique. He is long, so he can defend any route pretty well. I think it is going to be a good challenge for our receivers, definitely. He is somebody that we have gone up against all spring and it is going to be our best against their best."
Adams has had more interceptions than any Spartan defensive back this spring. Some of those picks have been spectacular including a diving interception made by the Buchtel standout in the second jersey scrimmage.
"He had an interception last Thursday, in the jersey scrimmage I think it was where he kind of dove out and intercepted a pass in flat," recalled Maxwell. "That is a play that you look at on film or you watch from the stands and you go 'whoa, that's a pretty good play.' But we know the athleticism and talent that Johnny has so that play was good play, but it wasn't surprising.
"Going into his fourth year player football he has had a lot of time here and he made a lot of plays last year. He has grown through the winter and the spring and he has become somebody we know we can count on as a lock-down cornerback."
Talented defensive tackle Jerel Worthy was the player many assumed would be taken first overall by the Green Team. The 6-foot-3, 305-pound leader of the Spartan defensive line understands why the seniors on the Green team made the decision they did.
"Johnny is a great pick, and excellent pick," said Worthy. "He has had a great spring and made interceptions all over the field, some interceptions that I didn't think he could make. And then shutting down guys like B.J. (Cunningham) and Keshawn (Martin) and all of the other good wide receivers that we have. He is a good pick and I wish the best for him. Good luck for Johnny, but I am going to go out there and do my thing and prove that I could have been the No. 1 overall pick."
Worthy says the ankle sprain that kept him out of some of the practices during the second half of spring ball has healed up nicely and will not slow him down as he anchors the White Team defense.
"My ankle is fine," Worthy said. "I have been in there all week treating it with Jeff (Monroe) and he has been getting everything together. I am going to have it taped up and ready to go."
Worthy was held out of contact all of last spring. Playing in the spring game means more to him than it might have if he had been part of the contest last fall. The Spartan defensive tackle has a little bit more motivation to show well as a number of family members, friends, and some of his high school coaches from Wayne High School will make the trek from Dayton to East Lansing for Saturday's spring game.
"We just want to get out there and enjoy the game with our family and friends and have fun," added Worthy."