CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) -It wasn't so long ago that All-American defensive end Gaines Adams didn't want anything to do with football because it was too hot outside.
Now, Adams is the hot one, poised to become one of the top picks - perhaps Clemson's highest ever - in the NFL draft on Saturday.
``I've worked hard to get where I am,'' Adams said last week. ``I'm excited for everything that's ahead.''
Some draft observers have the ultra-quick Adams going at No. 2 to Detroit. That would make him the earliest Tiger ever taken, surpassing do-everything World War II-era star Banks McFadden, who went No. 4 to the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1939.
In more modern times, Tigers cornerback Tye Hill went No. 15 overall last year to St. Louis. It looked like Adams might join Hill as a first-round pick last season until the 6-foot-5, 260-pounder decided to spend his final season at Clemson.
If Adams stood out before, last fall turned him into a Clemson icon.
Who could forget Adams' stunning 66-yard blocked field goal return that began the Tigers' comeback to beat Atlantic Coast Conference champs Wake Forest? He led the ACC and was third in the country with 12 1/2 sacks, including a school-record streak of eight games with at least one sack.
Those are incredible numbers, particularly from someone who wanted to concentrate on basketball at Cambridge Academy because the gym was air-conditioned and much cooler than the football field.
Even after football coach Steve Taneyhill, a former South Carolina quarterback, coaxed Adams onto the field to play tight end and defensive end, an NFL future seemed remote because Cambridge played eight-man football.
``It was hard getting people to pay attention,'' Adams said.
Following a productive season at Fork Union Academy with 22 sacks, Adams went to Clemson, where he gradually became a pass-rushing force.
As a freshman in 2003, Adams had four tackles and a sack in Clemson's 26-10 victory over third-ranked Florida State. A season later, Adams tied for second on the team with five sacks despite starting only one game. He led the Tigers his junior year with 9 1/2 sacks and 15 1/2 tackles for loss.
Back for one more year - and clearly the focus of opponents' block schemes - Adams excelled last fall. Besides leading the team in sacks, he had 17 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage and six pass breakups, making him second on the team.
``Seeing him move up the way he has, I've just been really, really pleased,'' Clemson coach Tommy Bowden said. ``Gaines has been such a pleasure to be around. He's probably in my office more than anybody, just having conversations that aren't football related. And that's the kind of relationships you like to have.''
The only downer for Adams last season was that the Tigers couldn't fulfill their early promise. After opening the season 7-1 and rising to No. 10 in the country, Clemson lost four of its final five games.
While it wasn't the ending Adams hoped for, he didn't regret waiting a year more for his pro career to start. ``There's no point looking back,'' he said. ``I did what I wanted to do, and it's turned out great.''
Particularly when it comes to his education.
Taneyhill said Adams partly wanted to return to get his degree in sports management, something the player accomplished this past December. A couple of weeks later, Adams made his mark with six tackles and his final two sacks in the Tigers' 28-20 loss to Kentucky at the Music City Bowl.
Adams caused a stir last week when reports had him and two fellow elite prospects, wide receiver Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech and defensive end Amobi Okoye of Louisville, admitting to NFL teams that they had used marijuana. Adams' agent, Fletcher Smith, has not returned phone calls seeking comment.
But Bowden didn't think the admission would damage Adams' draft status or reputation. ``I haven't been around marijuana very much, but I would say the percentage of people who have tried it in college football would be substantial,'' the coach said. ``The fact that he was honest, 'Hey, I tried it,' to me says a lot about him.''
Adams spent the past few months working out and preparing for this weekend. He'll be in New York on draft day, ready to pose in his new team hat.
``It's something you dream about all your life,'' Adams said. ``Now, to play alongside the greats of the game, that's the exciting part.''

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