Even to this day, Gavin Adams still gets a few butterflies in his stomach before every football game.
However, it's nothing like the time when the Bloomington South High running back was forced into action in a varsity contest as a sophomore.
Injuries to starters Che Hogue and Ben Morrison forced the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Adams to be the main man out of the backfield in the Panthers' regional contest at New Albany.
"I was pretty nervous going into that game, but I was also excited and knew that it was a great opportunity for me to see what it takes to play at the varsity level," recalled Adams. "My brother (linebacker Will Adams) was a senior at the time of that game, and him, along with all of my friends, who were also seniors, supported me throughout that game and gave me more confidence. That game gave me a lot of confidence going into the next year."
Although Bloomington South came up on the short end of a 33-14 decision to the Bulldogs on November 12, 2021, Adams proved his worth by accumulating 124 yards on the ground with two touchdowns on 27 carries.
His hard work and determination paid off last fall as he ran 173 times for 1,067 yards with 14 touchdowns and caught five passes for 58 yards with another score to earn all-Conference Indiana accolades and lead Bloomington South to a Class 5A sectional crown.
"My running back coach, Coach (Justin) Beyers, has turned me into a very physical back and taught me everything I need to know to play the running back position," explained Adams. "Now that I'm a senior, I still get a little nervous before games, but I know that my team and I have the ability to win any game we play. Because of how my brother's older class supported me, I learned the importance of supporting younger players that might have nerves."
Gavin didn't show any signs of anxiety on November 12 by carrying the ball 29 times for 118 yards with three touchdowns to help the No. 3 Panthers (11-1) claim their first Class 5A regional title since 2019 with a 42-21 decision over Evansville North.
"These awards are great and they build my confidence by telling me that I have been able to play at a high level," said Adams, who has 219 carries for 1,270 yards with 16 touchdowns and 14 receptions for 111 yards with one score. "As a running back, I consider these awards really to be an indication of the team's hard work and success. It tells me that we have put in the work necessary to beat these teams later in the season."
His passion on the gridiron is due in large part to his father, Patrick Adams.
"My dad has been a big football guy his whole life, so I learned about football at a very young age and fell in love with it immediately," Gavin Adams recalled. "I started playing flag football in the first grade and then put on the pads when I was 11 years old. My dad taught me the importance of being physical and fighting until the whistle, which is a big part of my game now."
Staying in good, physical shape has also paid dividends for Gavin.
"The most important part of my off-season is getting in the weight room," explained Adams. "The amount of time we spend in the weight room is what allows us to continue to get push on the offensive line and control the games in the fourth quarter. Last year, I suffered an ankle injury, which I ended up needing surgery on, so most of my off-season consisted of a lot of rehabilitation. I had to modify my conditioning and workouts so that I could get my ankle healthy enough to get back on the field while simultaneously building strength and gaining weight."
Competing in basketball and baseball has benefited him.
"What I've learned from playing all three sports is that there is no game like football," Adams said. "It is the greatest team game that there is because it takes all 11 guys on the field doing the right thing for a play to work. I've learned most of my leadership and team skills from football and have brought them over to the other sports."
Being able to focus on the future and put failures in the past has also helped Adams blossom over his career.
"I try to have a next-play mindset throughout these games," explained Adams. "This helps me move on from the last play whether it was good or bad because the next play is the only one that matters. This has been evident, especially in the playoffs. You have that 'what if this is my last game' running through your mind and once that hits, I do everything I can to make sure that it isn't."
Since providing him with added responsibilities, Bloomington South boss Gabe Johnson has been impressed with Gavin's contributions.
"Gavin Adams has been an outstanding player for us in his time at Bloomington South," Johnson said. "He embodies all the things that we value, teamwork, hard work, leadership and trust. He is such a coachable player and because of that, he has only gotten better each year in our program. He comes from an outstanding football family that have been a part of our program for some time. He is one of the best."
As it turned out, Adams and company had the opportunity to avenge their only loss to rival Bloomington North.
After suffering a heartbreaking 25-24 setback on September 8, Bloomington South returned the favor with a 44-31 triumph over the top-ranked Cougars in the Class 5A Sectional 15 semifinals on October 27.
"Looking back at it, I think that it was good that we lost," explained Adams. "If there was any feeling that we were unbeatable and we can just cruise through this season, those feelings disappeared as now we know that we have to put everything we can into every game. After that loss, we all wanted to play them as soon as possible because we knew that we beat ourselves and knew when we played them again we would win."
Heading into the Class 5A southern semistate final at No. 7 Decatur Central (10-2) on November 17, Adams and the Panthers (11-1) like their chances to move on and play for the state championship at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
"I'm always confident going into games because I know how hard the team and I have worked to get to where we are," Adams said. "I know that we have put many hours into film to find our mistakes and prevent them from happening again later in the season. We always know what we are going up against because of the amount of film we watch, so when we play talented teams, we know their weaknesses and how to attack those weaknesses. I try to stay as emotionally level as possible in these games and not get too high or too low."
Uncertain if football is part of his future plans, Adams wants to relish his time with the team.
"The relationship that I have with my teammates and coaches is very important because of the trust we have in each other," explained Adams, who has a 3.7 grade-point average and plans to study business in college. "We trust the coaches to call the right plays and have the correct game plans, and they trust us to put in the work necessary to execute those plays as designed. We have a lot of two-and-three-year starters on this team that have played with each other for a long time, so we really function well as offensive and defensive units."
He also believes the coaching staff has put them in a position to be successful.
"Coach Johnson and the rest of the staff have done a great job, knowing that we had a lot of starters returning and that we had the potential to be very good," Adams said. "He managed to push us every day in weights and in practice. Having physical practice is very important because it makes everyone more game-ready. We have a good offense and a good defense, so competing against each other every day makes us a lot better. He has set a winning mindset into everyone's minds and we all believe it."