Texans safety Mike “Pops” Adams’ first NFL season was 16 years ago as an undrafted rookie with the 49ers.
The 38-year-old is the oldest player on the Texans’ roster, and the longest-tenured active safety in the league. He is a testament to durability and perseverance.
“I’m like a fine wine, baby,” said Adams, the only active player with at least 800 career tackles and 30 interceptions.
Adams’ longevity is staggering, considering that Chiefs general manager Brett Veach and Chicago Bears coach Matt Nagy were his college teammates. Adams was the defensive captain. Veach was a standout wide receiver. And Nagy was the quarterback.
“It brings back memories,” Adams said. “I’m still going. They’re waiting on me.”
Adams and Veach typically pose for pictures together before games. Perhaps they’ll strike a pose prior to Sunday’s AFC divisional-round playoff game at Arrowhead Stadium
“We definitely stay in touch,” Adams said. “We always text each other, same thing with Matt Nagy. To this day, it’s ‘Good luck, good job, I saw this play.’ It’s little things like that, little critiques."
“You know I’m going to talk smack to Veach. He never talked smack. He would just laugh it off. It’s cool. He knows he’s going to hear it from me.”
Adams is so old that teammates like fellow safety Justin Reid were in elementary school when he entered the NFL. Asked what he was doing when Adams launched his NFL career, Reid replied: “I was probably eating Animal Crackers."
When Texans corner Vernon Hargreaves learned that Adams played college ball with Veach, he couldn’t control himself in the team cafeteria.
“Vern dropped what he was doing,” Adams said. “He had food in his mouth. He said, ‘What?’ and he started giving me grief.”
Jokes aside, Adams has had a remarkable career. Besides the 49ers and Texans, the New Jersey native has played for the Browns, Broncos, Colts and Panthers. He was selected to two Pro Bowls.
“Definitely perseverance, it was definitely a struggle,” Adams said. “It wasn’t easy, just being undrafted. I tell the young guys it took me 10 years to get to my first playoff game. It took me 10 years to get recognition for playing. Nobody knew who I was."
“Soon as I go to Denver and playing with Peyton Manning, now everybody started to know who I was. Just taking care of my body helping me out with longevity. I’m just happy to be here and mentor guys."
In the Texans’ overtime wild-card win over the Bills, Adams became the second player in franchise history to record a tackle for a loss and a forced fumble in a playoff game as he joined Brooks Reed. Adams stepped in for an injured Jahleel Addae and may do so again Sunday at Kansas City.
Adams had three tackles in six regular-season games, and four tackles against the Bills. He played 55 snaps on defense after playing just 68 defensive snaps during the regular season.
“Very valuable,” Texans coach Bill O’Brien said of Adams. “He's just a really good guy, good pro. He's been around a long time, studies well, prepares well. Any time you have a guy on your team or multiple guys on your team that have played like 10-plus years in the league, they're really guys that you want to point to the younger player and say:
“‘Look at this guy, here's a guy who's lasted a long time. This is a good guy to ask about how he lasted that long relative to doing what's best for the team, taking care of his body, just having a good team attitude his whole career.’ We were very happy to be able to pick him up get them here."
When Adams joined the Texans in October on a one-year contract, O’Brien predicted he would contribute in the postseason. At one point, Adams was contemplating retirement before signing with the AFC South champions
“I was on the verge of ‘Am I going to play this year or not?’ I want to win a Super Bowl, that’s my goal,” Adams said. “I sat down with OB. We had a straightforward conversation. Just communicate with, be honest. He told me some games I might be down, some games I might be up."
“I respected that. He let me know what my role was on the team: to mentor guys and play as needed. He said you’re going to come in a playoff game and make a big play. He kept it real with me. I respect that about him."
Adams’ sterling reputation precedes him around the NFL. Chiefs coach Andy Reid praised Adams for his attitude and professionalism.
"He’s one of my favorite guys,” Reid said. “He played with my general manager — how about that one — at Delaware. That's how long he's been playing. I've had him in a couple of Pro Bowl deals and he's a heck of a kid, man. He keeps himself in great shape and he's smart."
When Adams was considering how much longer to keep going, he consulted with former Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Bailey told him he had more to give.
“I still can play and I got a good spark,” Adams said. “I talked to Champ Bailey. We’re great friends. I asked him, ‘When did you know you were done? He said, ‘When I didn’t get the butterflies before the game.’ I said, ‘Good, because I still get them.’ That’s how I knew.”