WHEELERSBURG — By getting an official All-American invitation, Wheelersburg’s Gage Adkins is going to be doing a Texas two-step.
That’s because, after an extended process which actually culminated with a combine back in the summer, Adkins —a six-foot, one-inch and 185-pound primarily linebacker and defensive back — has been selected to compete in the Blue-Grey All-American Combine, which will take place in mid-January inside immaculate AT&T Stadium in Dallas, Texas.
Of course, that’s the home of the Dallas Cowboys of the National Football League — and perhaps better known as “Jerry’s World”, with longtime Cowboys owner Jerry Jones spearheading the building of the facility.
For Adkins, he plans to make it his personal playground —showcasing his talents there from Jan. 16-18.
Adkins confirmed his invitation on Thursday via his personal Twitter account, and explained that he was selected from a pool of 6,750 players.
He will also be attending the Blue Grey All-American Bowl game, which takes place that weekend.
“I was super pumped. I came home after my public speaking class and opened up this huge packet. I’ve dreamed of competing in things like this, but never would I have thought of coming this far,” said Adkins. “Without the help of my coaches and teammates, I would not of been able to compete at a high level at the camp as I did. Every single one of them had a share in preparing me for it. It was an amazing combine with even more amazing coaches.”
Adkins actually, as he explained, “stumbled upon the combine via Twitter”, as “it was one of the only combines that was still running during these unprecedented times.”
That combine was originally scheduled to take place inside incredible Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton —site of the Ohio High School Athletic Association state football championships and where Wheelersburg won the Division V state title in Adkins’ freshman season (2017).
The year after, Adkins transferred school districts into Scioto County from Watkins Memorial.
But, because of safety measures associated with the coronavirus threat, it was moved to Nelsonville-York High School’s Boston Field —which eliminated some time off the nearly four-hour drive to Canton.
To receive an invitation to that combine, Adkins said plenty of paperwork needed filled out —and contacts be made.
“I managed to contact the camp organizer and I also had to send over some information to be invited to the camp. After I sent in all of the needed information, I waited a few days until I received a packet full of the combine information and the official invite,” he said.
Adkins indeed received that invitation, as his specific position was that of outside linebacker.
Upon arrival, Adkins immediately knew that safety was the top priority.
“When we arrived we had to check in with the camp organizer, get our height, weight, grade, etc. One of the stranger things we had to do was wear a mask whenever we were in large groups. If any of the coaches had us in one large group, we were required to put our mask back on to ensure everyone’s safety,” he said.
In terms of the actual combine itself, Adkins said the participants’ tests included bench reps for 185 pounds, 40-yard dash times, shuttle times, and even social skills.
“They required us to do an interview by finishing with answering the question ‘Why should we select you for one of our bowl games?’ After we finished the combine side of things, we went into individual drills where we were taught some of the more advanced aspects of the game,” he said.
Finally, he said, participants broke off into their one-on-one drills where cornerbacks guarded receivers and linebackers defended running backs and tight ends.
Adkins indeed admitted that the combine was an overwhelmingly positive experience.
“I loved every single second of competing at the camp. It was an amazing opportunity and I’m very thankful that the combine organizers continued to allow us student-athletes to showcase our talents regardless of the outcome and decision regarding the possibility of no season. It gives us another opportunity to possibly playing in a bowl game and at the next level. And for some of us where there is still uncertainty, that’s all we may have,” he said.
In early August, it appeared as if there would be no high school football season in Ohio in 2020, but Ohio Governor Mike DeWine —with an Ohio Department of Health order officially signed three weeks ago —allowed for “full contact” sports in the state to proceed forward.
That was just the first good go-ahead word Adkins received, as his combine review came back in mid-August, where he learned he was one of the linebackers under consideration to compete in Dallas.
But while awaiting word of that official invitation or non-selection, he still spoke of how “these type of camps help with the whole recruiting process.”
“I already have six offers with three of those being scholarship offers to NAIA schools. But of course as a student-athlete, you want to be open to every single college and what they have to say to ensure you make the decision that’s the best for you at the end of the day,” said Adkins. “Attending things like that can help in a big way to get recognition from some big-name colleges as well.”
But combines, as Adkins knows, are just a small piece of the process pie.
He said he has worked upon improving his overall strength.
“Of course as an athlete, I still need to work on all aspects of my game and craft. The one in particular is my strength. I’ve never been the strongest guy, but since basketball season and quarantine, I’ve put on 22 pounds from 168 to 190,” he said. “It’s been something I’ve worked on all offseason to become one of the strongest out on the field at all times.”
And now, with Thursday’s news, Adkins is able to showcase his smarts, strength, speed and agility all in one All-American setting — while donning both Blue and Grey.
“I’m extremely honored and blessed to have this opportunity,” he said.
Reach Paul Boggs at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1926, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @BoggsSports © 2020 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved