For many young men with dreams of being picked in the NFL draft, the first stumbling block toward their goal is the college which chooses them.
But for Rock Hill's Phillip Adams, that was never going to stand in his way.
Despite his small-school status, the cornerback from S.C. State is expected to be chosen sometime late in this weekend's draft. That's a future he wasn't sure of himself when he left Rock Hill High, watching talented Bearcats teammates Ko Simpson and Jonathan Hefney, who were two years ahead of him, head straight to the SEC.
"I had to take a longer road, but that's fine with me," Adams said this week. "One thing I want to do is make sure all the kids around here, whether they're at Rock Hill, South Pointe or Northwestern, you don't have to go to the big school to get where you want to go."
The path from Orangeburg to the NFL has been traveled many times, by some of the greats of the game including Hall of Famer Harry Carson. While Adams is more familiar with former Detroit defensive tackle Robert Porcher, he said another NFL-related goal is to meet Donnie Shell, the former Pittsburgh safety whose son was a college friend.
"I'm very grateful to all those guys," Adams said. "I know there have been a lot of great names come through here, and I want to put my name up there with theirs.
"It's humbling really, and I want to take full advantage of the tradition those guys started. I'm motivated by it, and I don't want to let them down."
Adams said that after overcoming the big-school snub, his first clue that he might have a future in the game came when his coaches moved him from safety after his freshman year. That's when things began to blossom for him, and he's continued to prove himself over the years.
"I think when they moved me to corner, that really made me feel like I could play at the next level," Adams said. "When the coaches said something to me about it, I was skeptical at first, because I felt pretty comfortable playing safety. But after I got in there, I got to a point I felt like I could cover anybody."
At 5-foot-11, 192 pounds, he's solidly built and not afraid to tackle. He's also shown a strong instinct for the ball, with 11 interceptions in four years, two of those returned for touchdowns.
After the season, he was invited to play in a pair of postseason all-star games, the HBCU Senior Bowl and the Texas vs. The Nation game.
There, he impressed NFL scouts with his ability to play press coverage, one of the biggest demands when any college player moves up a level.
"He's a good player," said one NFC scout. "Really tough kid, good speed, he's got a chance to be a nice pickup for someone late in the draft."
Adams said the all-star circuit gave him confidence, not that he lacked it to begin with.
"I think that showed me I could play among the best," Adams said. "There were things about my game the scouts there wanted to see, whether I could press, whether I could backpedal and run with guys, and I think I showed them I could."
At his pro day workouts in March, he ran his 40 yard dashes in 4.52 and 4.53 seconds. Faster times would have cemented his draft status, but he's still hopeful he's done enough.
And he's not going to be picky about when he hears his named called. Scouts suggested he's likely a sixth or seventh round pick, but would at least be a priority free agent for teams if he did go through undrafted.
"I can't lie, it's going to be an anxious moment," Adams said.
And while many players would cringe at the thought of moving to the Motor City, Adams said there's a part of him which hopes Detroit likes him, if only so he can reunite with Hefney and Simpson, already on the Lions roster.
"I've thought a lot about that," Adams said. "That would be pretty special, just to get back with those guys again."