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Late Bears DE Adams remembered as humble, happy hard worker

EASLEY, S.C. -- Gaines Adams was remembered Friday for his enormous talent, quiet humility and an amazing smile that drew people to him throughout his football career.

"They all talked about that smile," said Tommy Bowden, Adams' college coach at Clemson.
More than 1,000 family members, friends, fans and teammates gathered at Rock Springs Baptist Church to celebrate the life of Adams, a defensive end who died Sunday from an enlarged heart at age 26.

Adams was an All-America at Clemson and taken fourth overall by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the 2007 NFL Draft. Adams was traded to the Chicago Bears midway through this season.

It wasn't Adams' way to complain or worry about things that didn't go as planned. Bears coach Lovie Smith told the crowd Friday that soon after the trade, Adams called to ask how he could best help his new team succeed.

"He came in like a man, ready to work," Smith said.

Bowden, who left Clemson in 2008, said Adams always carried that positive demeanor, even during hot, summer workouts that left most Tigers players griping.

"He smiled going down to practice, he smiled at practice, he smiled during stretches, he smiled after practice," Bowden said in his eulogy. "I thought something was wrong with him."

No, it was just Adams' approach to life.

Adams' first name, according to officiating pastor Sheldon Shipman of Greenville Memorial AME Zion Church, means "quiet, brilliant, nobility."

That was quickly evident to former NFL defensive back Merton Hanks, currently the league's director of football operations and development. Hanks was at the 2007 draft, handing out each players' new jersey after selections.

Adams stood out to Hanks as a thoughtful, humble person eager to succeed the right way.

"I left him with the sense that something great was going to happen," Hanks said.

Adams' friend and former Tigers teammate, Ray Ray McElrathbey, told the crowd that when he took on the challenge of raising younger brother Fahmarr, "Gaines was the first to ask me what he could do."

Several past and current teammates attended the service. The Bears' contingent included linebacker Brian Urlacher, quarterback Jay Cutler, team owner Virginia McCaskey and her son, team chairman Michael.

Former Clemson teammates and current NFL players Tye Hill, Justin Miller and Chansi Stuckey also were there. Calvin Johnson, the Detroit Lions wide receiver who befriended Adams during the 2007 draft process, came as well.

Defensive line coach Todd Wash led a group of Buccaneers.

"Everybody knows he was a good football player," Wash said of Adams. "He was a better person."

Adams' casket stood in front of the stage in the sanctuary as mourners lined up for final goodbyes. Alongside was a portrait of Adams' in his Bears No. 99.

Two video boards showed Adams at his most triumphant on the football field, sacking Florida State's Drew Weatherford in college, chasing Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo as a Buc and wrapping up Green Bay Packers running back Ryan Grant as a Bear.

The presentation also flashed an image of perhaps Adams' most memorable collegiate play -- the fumble he returned for a touchdown in a 2006 game against Wake Forest with the Demon Deacons ahead 17-3 and lined up for what seemed like a clinching score. The Tigers completed the comeback and won 27-17.

Bowden joked that play probably gained him a couple of more seasons as coach.

"About the only one who beat him down the sidelines was me," Bowden said.

Smith said Adams already had begun preparations for the 2010 season and the Bears had big hopes for their 6-foot-5 lineman.

"He wasn't with us long, but he'll be missed," Smith said.

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