Jonathan Adams, Jr. didn’t realize how much he loved football until he stopped playing.
The Jonesboro (Ark.) class of 2017 wide receiver decided to focus on basketball after his ninth-grade year, but it didn’t take long for him to change his mind.
After watching the Hurricane beat Valley View in Week 1 of the 2014 season, Adams stopped by coach Randy Coleman’s office.
“He said that he just missed it too much and he wanted to play,” Coleman said. “You don’t tell an athlete like him, especially a good kid like he is, ‘No, you’re going to have to wait.’”
Adams practiced with the team for a few weeks before really getting involved in Jonesboro’s Week 5 win over Little Rock Central. His role continued to increase with big games against Searcy, Cabot and Marion in the final three weeks of the regular season.
While he split his time between running back and receiver, Adams finished his sophomore year with around 12-14 catches for approximately 200 yards and two touchdowns, including one in the Hurricane’s semifinal loss to Pine Bluff.
That set the stage for a breakout junior season, in which he caught 63 passes for 1,231 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also intercepted two passes at safety, returned a punt for a touchdown and returned a couple of kickoffs 80-plus yards to get inside the 20-yard line.
At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Adams doesn’t have blazing speed – 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash – but Coleman said he is a very fluid runner and compares him to a former Arkansas quarterback-turned-NFL-receiver.
“I would compare him a little bit in the way he runs to a Matt Jones, just in the fact that his strides are so long and smooth that he’s a little deceptively fast,” Adams said. “He’s got explosiveness in short range areas, like catching the ball on the hitch route and making a guy miss and getting up the field.”
One of Adams’ best attributes is a 40-inch vertical, which allows him to catch 50/50 passes – jump balls that he and the defensive back have an equal opportunity to come down with. That makes him a dangerous weapon in the red zone.
During a game against North Little Rock this season, Jonesboro scored a touchdown with about a minute left to pull within 63-62. Because of Adams’ ability, Coleman called a timeout to draw up a two-point conversion play.
“It was basically just him trying to post-up or out-jump a guy,” Coleman said. “We thought we could either get that or a pass interference call. He goes up and gets it and we go up 64-63.”
The Hurricane ended up allowing a touchdown with four seconds left to lose 70-64, but Adams put them in a position to win.
The game didn’t have to be on the line for Jonesboro to toss one up for Adams, though. It happened several times throughout the season.
“We told our quarterbacks several times, ‘When in doubt, just throw it high and give him a chance,’” Coleman said. “That’s a great luxury to have.”
In an age of specialization, Adams is a three-sport athlete. When football season ends, he begins playing for Jonesboro’s basketball team, which is ranked No. 1 in the state.
After that, he moves over to the track team. During the summer, he plays AAU basketball while also working out with the football team.
Because he splits his time between those sports, Adams doesn’t spend as much time in the weight room as football-only players, but Coleman loves that he plays all three and believes he’ll improve his physicality when he focuses on football.
In a collegiate weight program, Coleman said he thinks Adams could get to 215-220 pounds, while also becoming faster and more explosive.
“He’s the total package,” Coleman said. “I can’t wait to see what will happen when he gets in college and he focuses solely on being the best wide receiver and football player he can be.”
Playing the other sports has also limited the number of offers Adams has received so far. Only Arkansas State has extended one, but Arkansas, Clemson, Memphis, Notre Dame, Purdue, SMU and Virginia Tech are showing interest.
Arkansas tight ends coach Barry Lunney Jr. stopped by Jonesboro last spring to visit Adams and also watched him play a basketball game against Little Rock McClellan this year.
Last summer, Adams’ AAU team played in a tournament in Fayetteville and reached the championship game, which was on the same day as a one-day camp at Arkansas. He didn’t participate, but showed up after his game and watched.
As a senior, Coleman said Adams will be a full-time two-way starter from the get-go, unlike in 2015, when he didn’t play safety until late in the season. He’ll move around on offense, while playing safety on defense and returning kicks on special teams.
“He’s an all-around football player,” Coleman said. “He’s got it in his blood. His dad was a Parade All-American high school player at (Osceola) and went on to play at Arkansas State.
“The offers are going to come. All it’s going to take is people seeing him.”