Photo: Waterloo Athletics
Darrell Adams figures he can always improve his skills and he appreciates any chance he gets to do just that.
That’s why he applied for a spot in the CFL’s Diversity In Football Program when the opportunity presented itself.
“The whole mindset behind this initiative is, ‘Hey, let’s open our doors and let’s really let people dive in and have an opportunity to see and then ask questions and be involved.’ So I’m looking forward to doing a little bit of both,” said Adams, one of nine candidates selected to spend training camp with a CFL team.
He’s already gotten something out of the program after taking part in last week’s Toronto Argonauts’ rookie camp. “Nothing like being out there doing two-a-days and getting with the boys,” said Adams, a former Hamilton Tiger-Cat who is now a coach, preparing to enter his seventh season with the University of Waterloo Warriors.
Adams already has a very full life in the world of football, and you can tell that just from the complete title on his Waterloo business card; Associate Head Coach, Defensive Coordinator and Recruiting Coordinator.
» CFL welcomes nine participants to Diversity In Football Program
» Nine selected for Women In Football Program presented by KPMG
» Diversity Is Strength Conversations
» Landry: Former Ticat diving into football ops in Hamilton
But there is a little too much downtime during a U SPORTS off-season for his liking and getting a chance to scratch that football itch is one of the reasons the native of Long Island, NY leapt at the chance to get to work at Argos’ camp.
Not the only reason, though.
“First and foremost, just an opportunity for professional development from a personal standpoint,” explained Adams, who played three seasons in the CFL, all with Hamilton. “Figuring out what tactics and techniques I can take back to U SPORTS.”
Another of his reasons is rooted in familial and community responsibility. Adams and his wife, Amrita, have two young children that they are raising, as they make their home in Mississauga, Ont. Their son, Isaiah, is 11 and daughter, Aaliyah, is 4 years old.
“That’s another reason why I’m all about these programs,” said Adams. “I want my kids to have opportunities to flourish both on and off the field and have access to resources and to opportunities because of these types of initiatives.”
Adams has previous connections in place with the Argos, and I don’t just mean going head-to-head with them on the field during his playing career. He mentions having already known Toronto special teams coordinator Mickey Donovan and linebackers coach Kevin Eiben. In 2019, Adams spent time bonding with Toronto defensive coordinator Corey Mace, when Mace was d-line coach with the Calgary Stampeders and Adams was a guest coach at training camp.
While he can extend his coaching knowledge and experience with that group, Adams will get an opportunity to investigate what life is like in the world of football operations. He already has relationships in place with Toronto general manager Michael Clemons and senior advisor Jim Barker.
“They both opened their doors to me and let me know that if there’s any conversations I want to have, there’s any information I need, (they are) there to talk. So if I wanted to, I can extend those conversations beyond coaching. Which I will, at some point, because I plan on staying for the duration of camp.”
Although Adams feels he is there to — primarily — bolster his coaching knowledge, he knows that Clemons and Barker can give him keen insight into the front office world. And while the 38-year-old doesn’t presently see that as a path he’d be apt to take, he also is aware that he doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. So he keeps an open mind.
“I don’t have any any desire to be in office,” began Adams, “but that’s because I’m unaware of what exactly happens. The more informed you are, the more knowledge you gain, that will just unlock your mind to potential opportunities that you might not have thought of.”
Adams joined the Hamilton Ticats in 2007 and in 2008 he had a stellar year at defensive tackle, accumulating 41 tackles and 9 sacks. He played one more season with the ‘Cats and then retired just prior to the 2010 season.
A year after his playing days were over, The Villanova grad (majoring in communications and media studies) rejoined the Ticats, spending two years with the team as a strength and conditioning coordinator as well as assistant defensive line coach. Then he moved over to U SPORTS and Carleton University, in 2013, where he was the Ravens’ defensive line coach for three seasons. His next stop was Waterloo.
“I’m thankful for everything I’ve been able to accomplish,” said Adams, who wanted to be sure that Amrita got her due when it comes to credit for that. “It’s not easy being a football wife,” he said. “I wouldn’t be able to do anything I’ve done in the past, you know, 14 years without her love and support.”
The two of them are in agreement when it comes to the importance of resources like the Diversity In Football Program. “She understands the necessity to continue to push for equity, and diversity opportunities and then having these things be fought for and advocated for,” said Adams. “Because if we don’t advocate it’s not going to happen.”
“Whenever these types of initiatives are being put forward at the professional level, you have to see it through,” he added. “Because if this thing works out, if there’s a long term vision and plan to increase diversity, representation and opportunities, we’ve got to maximize that.”
When he says “I have a lot more work to do moving forward,” Adams signals that he is ambitious. That he is taking part in the Diversity Program, however, does not mean that he is antsy to make a move, imminently.
“I’m happy where I am,” he said of his position with the Warriors. “I have a great organization. I work for a great coach (Waterloo head coach Chris Bertoia). But I’m not limiting myself.
“I’m always looking to get better and put myself and my family in the best position to be successful. So, I’m just using these opportunities to grow as a person, learn lots, increase my network and put myself in position to be ready, if something that makes sense is available.”