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Playing Poland

Chris Adams and Layton Jones Photo by Marcin Warpechowski
Chris Adams and Layton Jones Photo by Marcin Warpechowski

Former Rebels take their talents overseas
By: Adam Brown
Every football player who steps out onto the field of dreams hopes to one day play professionally, for a Vince Lombardi, a Bill Parcells or a John Madden, and former Ole Miss Rebels Chris Adams and Layton Jones are no exceptions.
Adams, who grew up in the very shadows of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, watching Ole Miss greats such as Eli Manning and Deuce McAllister, wondered what it would be like to play for the Rebels at an early age.
Jones fell in love with the Rebels as a kid as well after coming up to visit his brother Rickey, who also played at Ole Miss.  Visiting Oxford to see his brother gave him confidence that he, too, could be an Ole Miss Rebel.
Chris Adams Photo by: Marcin Fijatkowski
Chris Adams
Photo by: Marcin Fijatkowski

Adams high school sports career didn’t exactly put him on track to suit up for the red and blue. At Oxford High School, he ran track and cross-country and won two state championships, but never put on a helmet or shoulder pads.
“Seeing players walk through the Walk of Champions like Eli Manning, Derek Burgess and Deuce McAllister –– all these guys who are immortalized –– the biggest thing for me was to do it for the first time,” Adams says.
His decision to try out as a walk on was weighted on the fact that the Rebels had gone to five bowl games under Coach David Cutcliff.  With the talent he saw on the field and the speed he’d developed running cross-country, he concluded that he had nothing to lose and everything to gain in spite of his lack of gridiron experience.
Unlike the majority of other players who walk on to a college tryout with no high school football background, Adams proved to be the exception. The coaching staff under Ed Orgeron fell in love with Adam’s gazelle-like speed. In his first outing as a Rebel against Memphis, he stepped onto the field in the fourth quarter at the position of flanker with eight minutes left to go in the game.  The experience of seeing the fans in the stands and hearing the public address announcer announce to the crowd, “First Down Ole Miss”, was so surreal that Adams quickly got hooked on the excitement of Southeastern Conference football.
Adams and Jones making a tackle. Photo by Marcin Fijatkowski
Adams and Jones making a tackle. Photo by Marcin Fijatkowski

Playing with teammates and friends Layton Jones and Will Cole made the experience of being an Ole Miss Rebel all the more exciting.  Going through four days of practice, preparing for the next game and putting his sweat, his tears and his heart into the next game meant so much more when he went through it with his friends, Adams says.
After beating both the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers on the road, the Rebels knew that a bowl game was looming on the horizon.  When the team was selected for the Cotton Bowl, presenting the opportunity for them to play in Dallas Cowboys Stadium, Adams could only imagine what that entailed.
“We stayed in Dallas for a week … and spend time with our friends while going through a week of seeing how the pros prepare for a game,” Layton Jones recalls.
The experience they shared at the Cotton Bowl only whetted their appetites for more.  The thrill of the week of scheduled practices without classes, being able to see the sights of Dallas, and meeting a few of the Dallas Cowboys didn’t put a damper on their dreams of going pro, either.
The Pro Phone Call
The two were driving back from Memphis one night when Adams got a phone call from Coach Kenneth “Skip” Poole in Poland, asking Adams to come play in the Polish American Football League –– the old NFL European league.  Coach Poole had coached Adams on the Chattanooga Steam a year earlier.
Adams was unsure about going to Poland to play, but Jones, coming off ending his college career, was psyched at the prospect and the offer from Poole that also included him.
In Poland, Poole was coaching the Devils Wroclaw, an affiliate team of the Chattanooga Steam in Tennessee. The Devils had two people leaving the team, and Coach Poole had to find some replacements.  Adams and Jones decided to go over and play for a season together. They had ten days to get ready and pack for three and a half months.  The two left in April to play in the 2012 season.
They soon found themselves up against top competitors –– 20 of which went on to play in the NFL in the United States.  As Adams vividly recalls, they had to adjust to being the players the team called on late in the fourth quarter to win the game. When Poole left his coaching position unexpectedly, Adams even found himself coaching in two games.
“… The team appointed Adams as the coach because he had played under him  (Poole) before, and (they) needed someone to go to in the good and bad times,” Jones said. “It was going to be one of the four Americans.”
During the evenings, Adams and Jones would go over the playbooks to figure out what plays to run. At the same time, they both were playing in the games.  When necessary, they would call and ask Jones’ older brother, Rickey, for advice on which plays to run during a game.
Chris Adams Photo By: Marcin Fijatkowski
Chris Adams
Photo By: Marcin Fijatkowski

“I can understand the stress that coaches go through getting ready for a game,” Adams said.
The team had to do the best they could with the resources they had available to them. One of the biggest adjustments they faced was dealing with the fact that players had to work at day jobs, Adams said, adding that not having trainers or a pro style schedule made the adjustment more difficult.
Preparations for games in the Polish league were different as well. Unlike the NFL in the states, they typically practiced with full pads each day and every play was executed at full speed. As the season progressed, the team began to lose players to injuries.
Coming into the season late, the two said it was hard to connect with the players and to share the same bond that the team had developed with each other.
“If they were not winning out of the gate, the team would hang their head, Adams said. “(They) were not (accustomed) to a fifteen-round fight.”
The Devils quickly jelled, having gained confidence while playing with the two former SEC athletes.  The team camaraderie that came with Adams and Jones led them deep into the playoffs, where they eventually lost in the semifinals to the Seahawks Gdynia.
Sooner than either Adams or Jones anticipated, it was time to come back home.
For all of the differences and the difficulties, however, neither Adams nor Jones regrets their shared experience in Poland. “I would not trade that experience over there because it was a once in a lifetime deal,” Jones said.
Neither player has given up on their dreams of playing pro football. Jones is currently weighing his options as he shops for a sports agent, while Adams spends his free time talking with coaches and scouts and working out at his fitness club.
As the duo wait patently for the phone to ring again with an opportunity to go somewhere else and play, they both are pursuing a backup plan. Jones is finishing his degree in journalism at Ole Miss, while Adams currently hones his skills as a chef at his family’s Honeybee Bakery business.

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