When Davante Adams needs a reminder of how far he's come in such a short time, he just rubs the bump on the back of his upper left arm.
"Feel right here," Adams tells a visitor to a Fresno State football practice. "Feel how it sticks out a little bit?"
The small bump, hardly noticeable on his chiseled arm, is a bone protrusion that developed after Adams broke his humerus three times in five years as a kid growing up in East Palo Alto.
It's the main reason the Bulldogs' record-setting receiver didn't play football until his junior year at Palo Alto High, the reason Adams mostly flew under the radar until last fall, when he caught 102 passes for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman.
"The world had no idea who I was," Adams says.
It does now.
"He just blossomed so fast," says Earl Hansen, Adams' high school coach.
Such rapid success also carries potential pitfalls.
Namely, how do you motivate a guy who caught 102 passes in his first season of college football?
If you're Fresno State receivers coach Ron Antoine, you show him video of the 26 he dropped.
"He caught 102 balls, but the way we look at it -- and what I told Davante -- is it could've been 128," Antoine says. "So let's work on getting those other 26."
Turns out that lack of contentment spreads from the top down.
"The ratio of catching 102 and dropping 26, that's not good enough," coach Tim DeRuyter says. "He's got to be better than that."
Some 20-year-olds might bristle at those words. Adams accepts and internalizes them without a moment's hesitation.
"Coach DeRuyter has a quote that goes, 'Comfort leads to rust,' and that's 100% true," Adams says. "He always preaches you can't get comfortable where you're at. Because if you're content, you won't get better, and eventually you'll be forgotten about."
Despite starring for a Paly team that went 14-0 his senior year and captured the CIF state title in Division I, Adams' college career nearly never happened.
One reason is because Adams didn't settle on football or basketball till his senior year. (Adams' backcourt mate for one season was Joseph Lin, younger brother of Houston Rockets guard Jeremy Lin.) Another is he didn't have the grades.
To meet the NCAA's eligibility requirements, Adams had to take eight classes during the second semester of his senior year. And he needed to pass them with at least a 3.0 GPA.
So while all his friends contracted senioritis, Adams got super serious.
"They were all living the life, doing their second-semester-senior-year thing, and I had to lock in," Adams says. "That made it even tougher."
In between hitting the books, he hit the weights and ended up bench-pressing 300 pounds.
"Which is unreal for a high school receiver," Hansen says.
Arriving at Fresno State in August 2011, Adams missed the first week of training camp while waiting for NCAA academic clearance. When he did take the field, it didn't take long for his leaping ability and knack for catching the football in traffic to draw attention.
DeRuyter, hired in December of that year, noticed something else.
"He played with a lot of confidence for a guy who redshirted," DeRuyter said. "He acted like he had been there. That's the thing that impressed me."
In his first college game against Weber State, Adams caught seven of Derek Carr's passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns. He followed that with a 12-catch outing against Oregon. By season's end, Adams was a unanimous All-Mountain West Conference pick, its Freshman of the Year and a near-consensus Freshman All-American.
Then it was time to really go to work.
"We challenged him to get even better by pointing out all the little things he didn't do right," Antoine says. "Even if he got away with them."
Offensive coordinator Dave Schramm adds, "We challenged him to be even more competitive in practice. With his skill set, he should dominate every single day."
Which is exactly what Adams wants to hear. And precisely what he intends to do.
"The coaches have got to get on me, and I wouldn't expect anything less," he says. "I'm serious about this football stuff."
Even more serious than a thrice broken arm.
The Bulldogs' 1,000-yard club
Davante Adams became the eighth player and only freshman in Fresno State history to surpass 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He will look this season to become the third Bulldogs player to reach the milestone twice.Davante Adams (Fr.): 2012, 102 catches, 1,312 yards, 14 TDs
- Jalen Saunders (So.): 2011, 50 catches, 1,065 yards, 12 TDs
- Bernard Berrian (So.): 2001, 85 catches, 1,364 yards, 13 TDs
- Rodney Wright (Sr.): 2001, 104 catches, 1,630 yards, 11 TDs
- Rodney Wright (So.): 1999, 74 catches, 1,062 yards, 7 TDs
- Brian Roberson (Sr.): 1996, 78 catches, 1,248 yards, 5 TDs
- Charlie Jones (Sr.): 1995, 71 catches, 1,171 yards, 9 TDs
- Larry Willis (Sr.): 1984, 79 catches, 1,251 yards, 8 TDs
- Larry Willis (Jr.): 1983, 63 catches, 1,009 yards, 6 TDs
- Henry Ellard (Sr.): 1982, 62 catches, 1,510 yards, 15 TDs
The columnist can be reached at (559) 441-6218, firstname.lastname@example.org or @MarekTheBee on Twitter.