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A past Super Bowl head coach just may have produced a future defensive back for the San Francisco 49ers.
After guiding the Chicago Bears back to the Super Bowl in the 2006 season, plus following a brief head coaching stop with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Lovie Smith would go on and put on the recruiting hat and lead the University of Illinois for five seasons.
And while Smith has since moved back into the NFL head coaching reins by taking over the Houston Texans, some of his last recruits from his Fighting Illini years have landed on some league radars with the NFL Draft two weeks away — including a speedster he once recruited to Champaign, Illinois who has now drawn interest from John Lynch, Kyle Shanahan and the 49ers’ brass.
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Who the 49ers are Interested in
Per Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network on Friday, April 15, the 49ers are among the teams that have shown “steady interest” in cornerback Tony Adams.
Adams Called ‘Fast Riser’ & is Among Fastest Prospects for 2022 Class
While this 2022 NFL Draft class has no shortage of speedy prospects, Adams joins the list of speed options at the cornerback spot.
Though he wasn’t an invite to the 2022 NFL Scouting Combine, he still wowed spectators and NFL scouts who attended the Illinois Pro Day — including blazing the 40-yard dash in 4.34 seconds.
Since then, “Adams has had an uptick in interest from NFL teams” per Wilson. The insider adds that had the 5-foot-11, 203-pounder been invited to Indy during the first week of March 2022, Adams would have cracked the top five among fastest and most athletic cornerback prospects.
“His numbers would have placed him fifth in the 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine, second among cornerbacks in the vertical jump and second among cornerbacks in the broad jump,” Wilson wrote.
And back in 2017, he was a recruiting find for a man who once coached names like future Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Brian Urlacher.
When Smith Recruited Adams & Their Illini Years Together
Adams was a three-star prospect and the state of Missouri’s No. 7 overall prospect by 247Sports.
Adams, though, was listed as a wide receiver out of St. Louis University High. He would go on and pile nine total scholarship opportunities including in-state blue blood program Missouri.
And for Smith, he ended up battling the Southeastern Conference program Mizzou for the right to land Adams.
Ultimately, Smith was able to lure in Adams as one of his first recruit signings.
Adams went on and played in 41 games over five seasons at Illinois — lining up at cornerback, nickel and safety in his transition out of offense. Per Sports Reference, he recorded 206 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, three sacks, 17 passes defended and snatched six interceptions.
Smith and the Illini, however, never finished above .500 and only appeared in one bowl game: The 2019 RedBox Bowl won by California 35-20 — a Golden Bears team that saw members of that bowl game winner perform at the 49ers’ prospect day held on Wednesday, April 13.