Southern Miss

‘A tough day.’ How Southern Miss’ viral star flipped from Troy at the last moment

The perplexed look on the face of Jaylond Adams’ mother best summed up the moment when the high school football star announced plans to sign with Troy University on the morning of Feb. 1, 2017.

It was National Signing Day and Adams, who was a Parade All-American and the Gatorade Alabama Player of the Year in 2016, had finally revealed his highly-anticipated decision to cheers at Minor High School in Adamsville, Alabama.

Adams’ mom, Tiffany Levert, also joined in on the applause, but not before having to quickly confirm what her son had just announced. Southern Miss had been considered his top school up to that moment.

Levert laughed when asked Wednesday what was running through her mind as she stood behind her son that morning.

“I gave a strange look, ‘Did he just say what I think he said?’,” she said. “That’s not what we had discussed all week. My expression probably told it all.”

While Levert can smile now when she replays the video, the rest of that day was a stressful one for Jaylond and the rest of his family.

“That was tough, honestly. That was a tough day,” she said. “I think it was more overwhelming for him than it was for us as parents.”

After stunning his family by publicly choosing Troy, Adams went home and took a nap that afternoon.

When he woke up, his mom was there waiting on him.

“I said, ‘OK, Jaylond, you’ve got to sign these papers. What’s your decision and why did you say Troy?,’” she said. “He said, ‘Ma, I don’t know.’”

Southern Miss had been recruiting Adams for a long time, starting with John Wozniak, who was a member of Todd Monken’s staff at USM before serving one season under Jay Hopson in 2016. He later left in the middle of February 2017 to join the staff at Oklahoma State.

“(Wozniak) had followed him since he was in eighth grade,” Levert said. “I didn’t realize who he was at the time, but I used to see (Wozniak) at his eighth-grade football games. He first introduced himself when Jaylond was in high school.

“I had to remind Jaylond that (Wozniak) has been watching you since middle school. They sent you birthday cards, all of the above. He’s someone that’s been with you since then. You have to think about it.”

Levert told her son to go into his room, pray about it and come back and let the family know his final decision.

“He went out to dinner, came back and told us he was going to Southern Miss,” Levert said. “That was the best choice. I signed the papers and we left it at that.”

At 5 p.m. on Saturday, Adams and the rest of the USM football team will walk into Troy’s Veterans Memorial Stadium for an important non-conference contest that should serve as a measuring stick for both squads.

Two games into his redshirt sophomore season as a receiver/kick returner at Southern Miss, Adams has become a highlight reel standout after returning a pair of kicks for touchdowns against Alcorn State in the opener and making a difficult diving catch in the end zone at Mississippi State last week.

Adams’ star turn in college is no surprise to those who watched him pile up 2,676 all-purpose yards and 34 touchdowns as a senior in high school. In addition to Troy and USM, he earned scholarship offers from Missouri, Iowa State, Indiana and Rutgers.

Adams has gone viral on social media over the last week as video of his 80-yard punt return against Alcorn State has made the rounds on Twitter. He flashed top notch speed on the return, easily cutting through the middle of the field and racing past members of the Braves’ punt coverage unit.

One blog announced Adams as “the new fastest man on earth” due to his “ridiculous” punt return against Alcorn State.

Levert and her family have marveled at all the attention that Adams has received, noting that she saw one video had received 4 million views and another had gotten 5 million.

“I was asked if I had read all the comments, I was like ‘No. I would never get anything done if I read all the comments,’” she said. “I read a few, but then I was like ‘OK, I’ve got to get back to work.’”

As for Adams’ decision to attend Southern Miss instead of Troy, Levert believes time has proven that he made the right call.

“Each game, when Jaylond comes off that field he has a smile on his face,” she said. “That means more to me than anything. That lets me know he’s enjoying the game and having fun while playing the game. Each time I’m in Hattiesburg, he’s a happy soldier.”

Patrick Magee is a sports writer who has covered South Mississippi for much of the last two decades. From Southern Miss to high schools, he stays on top of it all.