After weighing the pros and cons of “the toughest decision of my life,” Vernon Adams Jr. delivered the news Eastern Washington fans didn’t want to hear:
Adams will play for the University of Oregon next season.
Ending weeks of speculation, Adams announced via social media Monday morning that he would transfer to Oregon after he graduates from Eastern in June.
Adams, one of the most dynamic players in the nation and a two-time Most Valuable Offensive Player in the Big Sky Conference, brings a rare blend of arm strength, mobility and experience to the Oregon program, which finished runner-up last year in the national playoffs.
And as a Duck, Adams may bring those talents to bear in the season opener on Sept. 5 against none other than Eastern Washington.
“Oregon it is!” Adams posted on Instagram and Twitter, leading to rejoicing by Duck fans and coaches, who had lost the services of Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota. There was joy too at Big Sky rivals Montana and Montana State, whose teams were winless in seven games over three seasons against the Adams-led Eagles.
During that time, Adams has thrown for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, while helping EWU go 35-8 overall and 22-2 in the Big Sky. For the past two years, he has finished second in balloting for the Walter Payton award for the top player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
In 2013, Adams led the Eagles to a 49-46 upset win at Oregon State; last year, he threw seven touchdown passes in a 59-52 loss at Washington. As much as anything, those games caught the attention of Oregon and other schools; UCLA, Texas and Maryland also sought Adams’ services.
Adams, a redshirt junior, has only one year of eligibility but is scheduled to graduate in June with a degree in recreation management. That would allow him to transfer immediately provided he enroll in a graduate program at Oregon.
The decision was fraught with pros and cons: more exposure by playing for a national power, but no guarantee that Adams would play, let alone start for the Ducks. He will miss spring ball at Oregon and won’t join the team until summer.
Adams said EWU coach Beau Baldwin has counseled him since the issue arose in December, after the Eagles were eliminated from the Football Championship Subdivision.
“I talked to coach Baldwin, and he was supportive but concerned that nothing goes wrong for me in my senior season. I’m concerned too that nothing goes wrong,” said Adams, who added that the bottom line was “doing what’s best for my future and for my family.”
Adams, 22, has a 7-month-old son, Vernon Kash Adams III.
Even as he said hello to Oregon, Adams took a poignant look in the rearview mirror at a program that recruited him, then developed him into an elite-level player.
“First off, I want to thank God for this amazing opportunity,” Adams posted on Instagram. “I want to thank all of Eagle Nation for the love and support. I want to thank every single one of my teammates for pushing me to be a better man and athlete everyday these past four years.”
Several hours later, Baldwin and EWU athletic director Bill Chaves reacted to the news at a press conference in Cheney. Both wished Adams well, but questioned the graduate-transfer rule, which allows NCAA student-athletes to switch schools, provided they’ve graduated.
Chaves said he’s been disappointed with the poor performances of graduate transfers, while Baldwin said he was frustrated in losing a key player after investing four years in Adams’ development.
Baldwin said he didn’t appeal to Adams to stay at Eastern, but merely provided “data” to help him decide. When he got the news early Monday, Baldwin said he wished Adams well.
“Actually, it was mutual,” Baldwin said. “We thanked each other, and he’s very grateful for what we’ve been able to do as a program for him.
“I told him the same thing, that guys like him who lay it on the line, give us as coaches and programs a chance to get into certain positions.”
For Eastern, that’s meant national prominence, although the Eagles won a national title in 2010, when Adams was a senior in high school in California.
Even without Adams, the Eagles have four quarterbacks in the program. Jordan West, the heir apparent, started four games last season when Adams was sidelined by injury.
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