Jamal Adams wants to win every time he runs on the football field, but Sunday's game against the Cowboys means more to the Jets’ fiery and competitive safety — and his family — than many others do.
Though Adams grew up in Dallas, the Adams family hates the Cowboys. Jamal’s father, George Adams, was a first-round draft pick of the Giants in 1985 and spent five years with the organization. Cowboys hate runs deep.
“I was the biggest Giants fan,” Jamal Adams said. “It was all about saying, 'The Cowgirls.' ”
He would love nothing more than for the 0-4 Jets to capture their first win of the season against Dallas and allow his father, who still lives and works in Dallas, to crow about it back home.
“It would be big,” Adams said with a huge smile. “It would be big. I was joking with my father. He works at a gym that I grew up in. There’s nothing but Cowboys fans. He definitely wants this win just as much as I do, and the rest of the guys around here do, to go home and have the bragging rights.
“I know he’s going to be non-stop talking if we do grab this win.”
Like father, like son.
Jamal Adams is a non-stop talker. He’s also a hard hitter and one of the best safeties in the NFL. After making his first Pro Bowl last year, Jamal called George to tell him the news and the two were emotional. But Jamal hasn’t had much to celebrate in his Jets career, and certainly not this season.
It’s clear a win would be special, especially with everyone back in Dallas watching. Jamal Adams probably will be non-stop talking to his friends back home if the Jets win. He joked that it wasn’t easy growing up a Giants fan in Dallas.
“It was definitely tough,” he said. “My father just ingrained that into me, not being a Cowboy fan. He hated it."
Adams also wasn’t a fan of another institution in the Lone Star State — the University of Texas. When it came time to pick a school, he chose Louisiana State University.
“When Vince Young and the Longhorns won the championship, it was a rough day at elementary school for me as well as days when the Cowboys beat the Giants," Adams said. "They were always talking noise. But it was fun. It was fun growing up in Dallas. I have a lot of great memories.”
He hopes this game will provide a great memory, especially after a maddening start to the season.
Quarterback Sam Darnold is returning after missing three games with mononucleosis. He should lift a struggling offense that ranks at or near the bottom of most categories.
The defense hasn’t been as big an issue despite the loss of middle linebacker and defensive play-caller C.J. Mosley in Week 1. But that unit will have to raise its play even higher against the Cowboys.
Dallas has the NFL's top-ranked offense, amassing 452.8 yards per game. Quarterback Dak Prescott has thrown for the second-most touchdowns (11), Amari Cooper is No. 2 in receiving yards (512) and running back Ezekiel Elliott, off to a slow start by his standards, can turn it on at any time.
“It’s a hell of a challenge,” Adams said. “A lot of skill guys, a lot of stars that can play football in that organization, period, not just the offensive side. I’m looking forward to it.”
After the Jets were trounced 31-6 last Sunday in Philadelphia, they held a players-only meeting. Adams, a team captain, was one of the organizers and speakers.
The players held themselves accountable and discussed what is expected of them. Adams believes it was productive.
“We’re not going to be too dramatic about it,” he said. “It was just getting on the same page. Everybody sees that we’re 0-4. No one’s going to feel sorry for us. We don’t feel sorry for ourselves. We understand what position we’ve put ourselves in. At the same time, we just got to move on, keep our head down, keep focused.”
Adams has no trouble doing that.
He’s frustrated by the team's record and was upset earlier this season by what he felt was a benching. Adam Gase removed the emotional Adams late in a blowout loss to the Browns before anything happened that might have jeopardized his status for the next week.
All parties cleared the air and that’s behind them now. Adams plays hard to the last whistle no matter the score. His work ethic, passion and attitude consistently draw praise. And no one batted an eye recently when he tweeted, “I am the best at my craft, and it’s not even close.”
Adams believes he’s the best safety in the NFL.
“No doubt,” he said. “I feel I’m the best at what I do. But I work my butt off for it. It’s never going to stop. That’s just my confidence in me.”
Adams said he’s always felt that way, “since I came out the womb.”
Not long after that, George Adams raised his son to dislike the Cowboys. Now Jamal Adams has his sights on beating them.
“I have a lot of respect for those guys,” he said. “I have a lot of respect for the organization, how they’re run, a lot of friends on their team as well. It’s like a homecoming for me, but at the same time, it’s the next game. We’re focused on that and we’re focusing on trying to get our first win as a team.”
If they do, both Adams will be talking a lot of noise here and back in Dallas.