Steamboat Springs Tammy Adams can remember years ago when her son Joel would be in their back yard with his brothers and friends skiing on their hill into the late hours of the night. Even with temperatures dipping below zero and the sky pitch black, Tammy would have beg the children to come inside.
But it was moments like those that gave Tammy a glimpse of Joel's competitiveness.
While a student at Steamboat Springs High School, Joel earned an Alpine skiing scholarship to the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he earned a spot in the 2005 NCAA National Championships and was part of last year's CU national championship team. He graduated from Steamboat Springs High School in 2003.
Soon, Tammy might see her son take the field at Folsom Field in Boulder.
Joel Adams recently made the football team's travel squad. He's listed third on the depth chart at safety, and according to secondary coach Greg Brown, Adams is on the cusp of seeing game action as a special teams member.
Not bad for a kid who walked on two summers ago.
"It's definitely the hardest thing to go through, because there are a lot of guys that are recruited," Adams said after Wednesday's practice in Boulder. "Once you get here, you're the guy who is just another body. It was intimidating at first, but once you get into the swing of things it gets better."
When it comes to the football field, it's always been an uphill battle for Adams.
He blew out his knee in the second game of his senior season. With a skiing scholarship already in hand, it looked like fate had selected the path for him.
But after some persuasion from friends - and realizing he had the opportunity to live out a childhood dream - Adams decided to walk on to the program.
Adams said he got the call from the coaches the night before football camp opened at CU in 2005, and he was invited back to compete with the team.
Even Tammy subtly questioned her son's decision.
"We just felt like we had to support him in what he really wanted to do," she said. "I'd say that we all supported him and we knew he was a great athlete, but this was the Big 12, and we thought it would be a great undertaking.
"It's a whole different level of football: I am so proud that he hasn't given up. This is what he wanted to do since he was little. A lot of people didn't think he could do it, but he just has this incredible work ethic and never-quit attitude."
Adams competed all year on the scout team and made enough of an impression that he was named scout team defensive player of the year by former head coach Gary Barnett. But Barnett lost his job, and Adams wasn't sure whether there'd be a spot for him under new head coach Dan Hawkins.
"I was worried for a little bit," Adams said. "I didn't have a really good spring and didn't do as well as I wanted to. It was tough for me, but Coach Hawkins was a walk-on himself. This fall I got a lot more opportunities."
And Adams made an impression.
In an Aug. 14 scrimmage, Adams picked off quarterback Bernard Jackson - twice.
"He's a student of the game," said Brown, who coached in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints last year. "He's athletic and a fun guy to be around on and off the field. :He's just a tremendous athlete. He knows how to work. The attitude he takes in practice is phenomenal. He goes 100 percent all the time in practice and performs well."
Still, it hasn't been all roses for Adams.
Because of an NCAA rule that prohibits football players from accepting scholarships in other sports, Adams was forced to give up his skiing scholarship to play football.
He still skied last season, but he struggled with the transition from football to skiing. Assistant Alpine ski coach Jed Schuetze said playing two sports puts Adams at a disadvantage come ski season.
"He has to make up ground as soon as we get on snow." Schuetze said. "I think that was a little bit of a hard adjustment for him last year. We hope that he has a great football season, and we want to see him battle with our top guys and compete well on the ski hill."
Adams said he will continue to compete in both sports, but he admitted a decision to do one sport or the other may be on the horizon. Adams said that when ski season starts in the fall, his workload can be overwhelming.
Last fall he had ski practice from 6 to 9 a.m., class from noon to 2 p.m., and football practice from 3 to 6 p.m. Expect that load to increase now that Adams has progressed further in his degree and made the traveling football team.
"Sometimes I get buried," the International Affairs major said. "I say, 'Is it really worth doing both?' I'm not sure, but I'd like to do it."
Adams said he knows he probably had a better chance to be a special skier than a special football player. Still, the lanky safety has taken his experience on the slopes and translated it to success on the gridiron.
"To be honest, it's all football now," he said. "I still have a lot of good friends that are still skiing, but my heart has always been in football."