Safety Tony Adams, an undrafted free agent, was not selected in April's NFL draft, but, after being signed by the Jets, progressed and impressed enough to make the Green & White's 53-man roster.
"Big credit to TA," head coach Robert Saleh said on Thursday. "Undrafted, he just did a really good job every single day finding ways to get better and better. He's got a bright future ahead of him. I would've been sick if we were to have lost him."
Adams, 23, played both corner and safety at Illinois. He started as a freshman and played five years (four, plus a Covid year) registering 204 tackles, 6 interceptions and 11 passes defended in 41 games.
The Green & White tabbed him at safety, but he filled in at corner during OTAs after injuries shrank the position room. The opportunity was a blessing. Covering only half the field at the start helped him adjust to the speed of the NFL.
"He hopped right in at OTAs at corner," assistant GM Rex Hogan said. "He was the ultimate team guy because he was brought here to play safety. But I think it really helped him just in terms of his development, being able to see and start out covering half the field."
See the 53-man roster in photos leading up to the 2022 season.
At the start of camp, back at safety full-time, Adams kept open a constant line of communication with veteran safeties Jordan Whitehead and Lamarcus Joyner.
"[Joyner and Whitehead] are like big brothers to me," Adams said. "They really took me in, and I just watched them. LJ [Joyner] or Jordan, if I need anything they'll tell me, they are not selfish with information."
Whitehead and Joyner relished the role of mentor and saw a younger version of themselves in Adams.
"I see it every day from getting better," Whitehead said. "And I just I see him in me when I was younger, so I just try to help him out as much as I can."
Joyner said: "From the day he stepped in and just his focus and attention to details has paid off. I mean you have got a young guy that did not have a clue what the NFL is about every day, and he just watched the guys that did it right until you started to see him develop."
In the Jets' three preseason games, Adams registered 4 solo tackles and 5 assists on defense and one takedown in punt return coverage. Adams enhanced his comfort level in the back end, but his contributions on special teams ultimately helped him make the roster.
"I feel like I'm playing faster and I'm playing with more confidence now," Adams said. "I am doing all the little things like just reading my keys. Champions do the ordinary things right all the time."
Saleh added: "What [Adams] did in the game and practice and special teams had a big part in it."