INDIANAPOLIS – Back when he was a redshirt sophomore at Eastern Washington, Vernon Adams heard it for the first time.
Short, at least by quarterback standards, but tremendously talented and athletic, Adams started hearing people compare him to a Seahawks rookie who was making a name for himself in the NFL despite lacking the height usually considered a requirement to play the position.
Four years later, Adams is at the NFL Scouting Combine hoping to prove to teams that he, like Russell Wilson, can succeed in the NFL despite his 5-foot-11 stature. Adams, who played at Eastern before transferring to Oregon for his senior year, has overcome a lot just to get this far in the process. He landed at Eastern Washington because he didn't receive any offers from FBS schools, but after thriving there, he got his shot at Oregon last season and played very well when he was healthy. Adam's success at Oregon, as well as his play at the Senior Bowl and what he hopes will be a good performance this week, give him a chance to get drafted, or at least land a spot on an NFL roster, despite those early obstacles.
"I'm very blessed and thankful for this opportunity," Adams said. "But I'm still the 5-11 quarterback, the short quarterback."
And of course it's easy to embrace the Wilson comparisons considering how much success the Seahawks quarterback has had in his first four seasons.
"I think that's a blessing," Adams said of the Wilson comparisons. "I'm blessed to be compared to Russell Wilson, a great quarterback like that.
"I've always rooted for him. I did a quarterback camp with him. Drew Brees too, he's been getting it done for a long time. I don't think too much about being a short quarterback. You find a window. It's about your football IQ, I think. If you're prepared well, I think you're going to do well. This is nothing against Tom Brady or Brock Osweiler, but I see those guys get their balls batted down a lot. So it's not about being short—you get your balls batted down if you're tall or short—it's about getting the ball out on time, having the right pocket, stuff like that."
Adams was asked plenty of questions about newly-hired 49ers coach Chip Kelly and if he would be a fit in that offense, which is only natural given both of their ties to Oregon. But while Adams said he could jump into a Kelly offense and be comfortable right away—Adams said he recognized 80 to 90-percent of the plays when watching Eagles games last season—he emphasized that he is more than just a spread quarterback.
"I'm a very good learner, very good visual learner, and I'm great at picking things up really quick," Adams said. "When I got to Oregon, I had only three weeks to learn the offense and try to earn a spot as a starter, and I did that, I learned the offense really quick. So I can pick up any offense pretty quick.
"At Eastern Washington, our offense was a lot of progression reads. It wasn't just pick a side—it was a lot of progression reads, different coverage reads, so I think I'm good at reading defenses… I've played under center before, just not at Oregon. I've played under center before, and I've been doing it this whole time training, so I don't think that's going to be tough at all. A couple of reps, and I think I'll be all right."
And even when he was asked to critique his game and name something he could improve upon, he brought up something that Wilson himself has tried to balance early in his career.
"Maybe not leaving the pocket as quick," Adams said. "I extend the play a lot, and it can help me a lot, and sometimes it might bite me in the butt if I leave too early. So maybe not leaving the pocket too quick."
Seahawks coaches, scouts and front office staff are out in Indianapolis to watch draft-class talent preform at Lucas Oil Stadium for the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine.