A giver of hugs and a hefty but nimble defensive lineman, Georgia Tech football player Brandon Adams died late Saturday night at the age of 21. According to a statement from Atlanta police, citing information provided by Georgia Tech police, Adams collapsed at a home near campus and was taken by friends to Emory University Hospital Midtown, where he was later pronounced dead.
The GBI Medical Examiner’s Office will conduct an autopsy beginning Monday morning to determine the cause of death. Adams, from Brentwood, Tenn., was set to begin spring practice with the Yellow Jackets on Tuesday in preparation for his senior season. (As of Sunday evening, the team’s plan was to continue with spring practice, the first of coach Geoff Collins’ tenure, as scheduled.)
“We lost an unbelievable kid,” former Yellow Jackets assistant coach Andy McCollum said. “I can’t even put it into words.”
Adams was expected to play a significant role on the team this fall. He played in 33 games over three seasons and had his best season in 2018, with 24 tackles, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles. He was a business administration major.
The death of the young man who weighed in at 325 pounds and answered to “Big B” will be felt this fall in Jackets’ box scores – he was a likely starter with clear NFL potential – but far more so in aching hearts.
From a tweet from a former teammate, Desmond Branch: “One of the best, genuine, loving and overall happy people I have ever met. Always had a smile on his face, got along with everyone.”
From a statement from Collins: “Our entire Georgia Tech football family is heartbroken by the news of Brandon’s passing. In the short time that I have had the privilege and honor of knowing Brandon, I admired and respected him, first and foremost as a terrific human being, but also as an outstanding teammate and leader.”
“He always wanted to hug you,” said Kyle Cerge-Henderson, who played on the defensive line with Adams for the past three seasons. “Everybody in the Georgia Tech athletic department can tell you that Brandon Adams gave the greatest hugs of all-time.”
Cerge-Henderson and his wife gave birth to a baby girl in February 2017. Shortly after Ava’s birth, Cerge-Henderson got a call from his friend. Adams wanted to know if he could bring her some cheese puffs. From there on out, Cerge-Henderson said, he occasionally continued the distinctive gift-giving practice.
“At her birthday party, he brought her a bunny — because I told her she loved stuffed animals — and a big bag of cheese puffs,” Cerge-Henderson said.
Former coach Paul Johnson said that, whenever Adams was in the football offices, he went out of his way to stop by his office to see how he was doing, and did likewise with Johnson’s wife Susan on road trips. He last saw Adams when Johnson was recently at Tech getting treatment for his back.
“He just saw me on the table and he came over, ‘Coach, man, how are you doing? You playing golf? You getting a lot of golf in?’ ” Johnson recalled.
Johnson in turn asked about Adams’ weight — often a challenge — “and he said, ‘Man, I’m getting it.’ I said, ‘Good, I’m anxious to watch you play this fall.’ He was just always smiling.”
McCollum recruited Adams out of Brentwood Academy, where he was a three-sport star. While no longer at Tech, McCollum said that he’d recently received a text message from Adams telling him he loved and missed him.
“He was just like a lightbulb in the room,” McCollum said. “When he walked in, the whole room lights up. Biggest heart of any kid I’ve ever been around.”
Jackets players and coaches had a chance to share their grief Sunday night as they gathered for a previously scheduled team meeting upon their return to campus from spring break.
Adams is survived by his mother, Lisa Greer, his stepfather, Reginald Woods, and sister, Rian.
Memorial information was not available as of Sunday evening. More informal memorials are already scheduled. Cerge-Henderon said that he and his wife will give their daughter cheese puffs for every birthday going forward to remember Adams.
Johnson will remember a young man quick with a fist bump and a big smile who liked to dabble on the piano when the coach had team members over to his home.
“I think he was very talented, not just in football,” Johnson said. “He was very talented. Smart kid with a great personality. He was going to be very successful, I think, no matter what he did, whether it was in football or off the field in a career. Whatever he did, I think he had a chance to be special. He was a special kid.”
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