Four years ago, Kyle Adams was working as a janitor, scrubbing toilets and changing light bulbs. Now he’s a veteran NFL tight end well-aware of the opportunity playing professional football has given him to serve others.
Adams is one of those character guys teams like to have in their locker rooms. He’s physically, mentally and spiritually tough. During the months he spent as a janitor, he had a degree from Purdue’s Krannert School of Management in his pocket. “I liked to think of myself as Rudy,” he laughed. After being voted team captain his senior season at Purdue University, he graduated just in time for the 2011 NFL lockout. He’d gone undrafted, but several scouts and agents had expressed interest. Though he’d dreamed of being a professional football player since he was a preschooler, only during his fourth year of college did he realize how close he was to making that dream a reality.
For months he waited in limbo.
When the lockout ended, the Chicago Bears rewarded his patience with two seasons as a tight end and special teams player. Last year, his third season, he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Now Adams is a free agent again, but being between teams has in no way slowed his commitment to the Ephraim Orphan Project in Haiti, which strives to provide wellness of body, mind and spirit to orphaned, neglected, abused and ill children.
Adams serves on the Ephraim Orphan Project leadership board alongside his mentor, Purdue University chaplain Marty Dittmar. “Marty instilled in me that God has given us a platform, that people (for better or worse) think highly of football players. People are willing to listen to us, and we can use that influence to further social change, further our faith, whatever positive changes we want to advocate.”
Six years ago, Dittmar took Adams on his first mission to Haiti, a trip that totally changed his heart. “It was an eye-opening experience, stepping off that plane. Just ninety minutes from Miami but a totally different world.” Adams encountered trash-strewn streets, poverty, sickness, starvation and open sewers; and this was before the major earthquake in 2010. “I don’t want to paint a picture of everyone being miserable,” Adams said. “I was amazed by the spirit of the people. They had such strong faith and were so positive about life.”
It was there in Haiti that Adams gave his life to Christianity. He’s traveled back and forth to Haiti on a regular basis ever since. “Coming into my faith, I struggled with the things I didn’t want to give up. I wanted to be a Christian and follow Jesus, but it was hard to completely give my life over to Him. I wanted to focus on myself and then give God credit when it was convenient. Haiti has given me a lot of perspective on how selfish I was. It’s shifted my perspective on what’s important.”
Though much of the offseason NFL news seems to circulate around arrests and gossip, there are a lot of authentically motivated players flying under the radar. Many of them are not household names, but they’re still using their time to help various causes. “A lot of guys come from tough upbringings, and once we’re blessed with some financial wealth, we have a lot of extra time during the off-season to give to whatever you’re passionate about,” Adams said. A lot of NFL teams have people on staff specifically to help players find opportunities to give back to the community.
“When it comes to charity, there isn’t one charity that ‘better’ than another, but God has given me a passion for the Ephraim Orphan Project and these kids. We have so much, it’s easy to give thirty bucks a month, and it completely changes a child’s life forever.”
Adams might be looking for a roster spot again, but he’s come a long way from mopping floors. “After three seasons, I’m more financially secure. I have more perspective. I’m a bit wiser now. It’s easier to trust that there’s a plan for my life.”