CARY — As a redshirt freshman at Wake Forest, running back Josh Adams raced 83 yards for a highlight-reel touchdown run against Florida State.
That single carry stood out in a remarkable season for the Cary High School graduate. He went on to earn the ACC's 2007 rookie of the year award, amassing 953 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns.
Then there was a similar running play against Georgia Tech last season in which Adams took a handoff at the 18-yard line, found open space and charged downfield.
"I got caught," said Adams, who has since graduated and is now preparing for life after college. He's unlikely to be selected in this week's NFL draft, though he holds out hope of a professional football career.
Adams, 23, expects to take the route of an undrafted free agent. He's seeking an opportunity to showcase himself to an NFL team and prove that - at 5 feet 11 and 180 pounds - he's more than the sum total of his collegiate stats.
He finished his Wake Forest career with 2,212 rushing yards. He became the 10th runner in school history to surpass 2,000 yards and finished in ninth place on the rushing list, with 23 touchdowns. Still, Adams never became a dominating rusher at Wake; injuries to both knees slowed him down and perhaps moved him out of favor with the Demon Deacons coaching staff.
In his final season, Adams rushed 91 times for 316 yards and three touchdowns.
"I'm satisfied," Adams said. "I definitely would have liked to have a better senior year. But overall, each year I learned to do something different."
He grew as a receiver in his junior year and finished his career with 561 receiving yards, becoming just the fourth player in school history with 2,000 or more yards and 80 receptions.
He also excelled as a blocker, holding pass-rushers back despite his small frame.
Adams showed flashes of NFL-type speed, yet he never really earned the title of burner. That's why the run against Georgia Tech irritated him so much. He later scored on the drive, but as for getting caught, he said, "That's a touchdown. I needed that to go in the books."
Over the past two months, he has been training for his shot at the NFL, working with Green Hope High School assistant track and field coach Firman Walden at Davis Drive Park.
"He's in fantastic shape," Walden said. "He looks like he's trained hard, and he's in condition to go to the next level."
During Wake Forest's pro day, Adams struggled in the 40-yard dash, posting an uninspiring 4.72-second time on a windy day. Last week, he tried out for the Canadian Football League and ran a 4.54 time that reminded him of his high school days when he gained 8,631 all-purpose yards.
"I was impressed with myself," Adams said. "That I still have it, especially that direct speed."
Now he has to impress others.
"I think he's NFL-worthy," said David M. Fish, an attorney who represents Adams as an agent. "I think the NFL teams will see that as well. Once they see him on the field, I think they will see it's where he belongs."
An NFL lockout could delay Adams as an undrafted free agent, but he remains positive about the process and has considered the CFL or other pro leagues as options.
Adams - who graduated with a degree in communications - said he's prepared to try positions outside of running back to earn an opportunity. He's even marketing himself as a special-teams player and free safety.
"Any way I can get on and make a play," he said. "That's me."
For now, he's comfortable making the scout team and building from there.
"I'd be the last person coming through the drill, doing it right," Adams said. "As long as I get it right."
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