EUGENE, Ore. -- When Vernon Adams Jr. found out he was going to be a father two years ago, his own father gave him a piece of advice.
He said the key to being a good father was to be honest, even about the tough stuff. He said to hold your child to a high standard and be honest with them when they don’t reach it -- be honest with your own son so that he’s prepared for the world. If the good and the bad come from the parent, the child will understand that his family -- not fans or friends -- is where he should go to get his fulfillment and critiques.
Vernon Adams Sr. had always been honest with his son -- Adams jokes often times brutally so. When Adams Jr. was a kid playing in Pop Warner, his father told him he didn’t throw passes well enough with his left hand, even though he was right-handed. So they began practicing for 20 minutes every day.
When they got home, he didn’t take the trash out often enough. He didn’t keep his room clean enough.
This season, after the USC game, when Adams threw for six touchdowns, he was congratulated by everyone. Except his father.
“You let Chris Hawkins pick you off,” was the first thing his father said to him.
“Six touchdowns, one interception,” Adams Jr. replied.
“One interception,” his dad echoed.
The two have built their relationship on a foundation of honesty for the past 23 years (Adams Jr. will turn 23 the day after the Valero Alamo Bowl) and once Adams Jr. became a father almost 18 months ago, it is the part of his upbringing that he has tried to replicate with his own son Vernon Kash Adams III.
After that six touchdown-one interception game against the Trojans, Adams Jr. told reporters in a news conference, “I can’t wait to tell my son about this later on in life.”
God is so good. I'm blessed! It felt so good getting back on the field and playing the game I love. Of course it was a little weird for me playing my Alma Mater. I'm just so thankful for this opportunity. Shout out to my family, friends and all of the fans out there last night, thank you guys for welcoming me. Annnd my baby boy was there, love you bud! #GoDucks 🐥
But for now, Kash is amazed by the bright lights and the loud noises of a football game. He’ll have no real recollection of the time he joined his father on the field for Senior Day or the stressful moments his father endured as he waited on a math score to figure out if his future at Oregon, which he gambled on for his family, was going to happen.
Adams Jr. sees that Kash is getting older and starting to pick up on the world around him. Last week, when Adams Jr. was back in Yakima, Washington, Kash grabbed a Barney DVD from the floor, opened it, put it in the DVD player and waited for his father to press play.
These are the moments that make it harder for Adams Jr. to leave and return to Eugene, knowing that the minutes hold even more now. The next time he sees Kash, he will have learned more and experienced more, maybe remembered more.
It’s these moments that make Adams Jr. understand that he’s going to have to tell Kash about his experience with the Ducks, the ups and the downs, even faster than he realized.
In a way, he admits, the time has kind of snuck up on him. His life as a football player is much more easy to measure -- quarters, games, seasons, schools -- but his time as a father hasn’t been linear. It’s unexpected. It jumps around a lot. There are moments when he seems grown up and others when he seems like every other senior on his football team.
Even in conversation, he jumps between grown adult and young man effortlessly.
He follows up the story of how he nervously told his parents over Christmas break two years ago that he was going to be a father, and then made a quick transition back to his 23-year-old self when he described the second trimester of the pregnancy by simply saying, “Girls get their hormones.”
As he reflects upon the experience, he’s trying to figure out when exactly he’ll start telling Kash about this season. When will Kash understand it all? When will he start to care? Will he care?
“Should I leave anything out?” he asks.
“No,” he answers himself. “I’ll tell him everything.”
Adams Jr. said he’ll start with Eastern Washington and the life he started there. He played with a chip on his shoulder and played his best in the games that his father attended.
He’ll move onto Oregon and how the transition was even harder that he had imagined. How he broke his finger in the first game of his FBS career and tried to play through it. How that overthrow and underthrow against Michigan State still bother him. How Michigan State is playing in the College Football Playoff. He’ll tell Kash about beating Stanford and USC, what it felt like to have the stadium cheer for him when he was announced as a senior at Oregon. How he felt so a part of it all.
“He’ll question me like, ‘Dad, were you even good?’ like I used to question my dad,” Adams Jr. said. “My dad, he wasn’t. ... He’d get in fourth quarter if they were losing by a lot.”
And at this point, he says, he’ll break out the highlight tapes.
Because if his words won’t do the convincing, he’ll let the video speak for itself.
He’ll tell Kash these stories in part to relive the year that started in Cheney, Washington, traveled 450 miles southwest to Eugene and went so much further, but also in the hope that Kash will learn from his experience.
“I hope he’s a fighter,” Adams Jr. said. “There’s going to be ups and downs and when the downs come, don’t get down on yourself. I hope he comes to me, to his mom. ... Bad is going to come and good is going to come. I just hope he keeps his head up.”