FREDERICKSBURG — He is a menacing, bone-jarring tackle machine, who has a knack for chasing down ball-carriers and making big sticks on the football field.
He’s also a talented offensive tackle, playing that mostly unheralded position with pride while mixing it up in the trenches against bigger opponents.
He is a four-year contributor to his football program, and he won a unanimous vote from his teammates and coaches to be his team’s captain this season.
He is Northern Lebanon senior Kalani Adams, and unless you call Lancaster-Lebanon League Section Four home, you might not know his name.
Now you do.
“There’s not a lot that he doesn’t do well on the field,” Northern Lebanon rookie coach Jason Rice said. “He gets it. And he’s very committed.”
Adams, a chiseled 6-2, 205-pounder who runs a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash, has spent the last couple of seasons mostly flying under the radar in Fredericksburg, but very much going about his business doling out punishment in the tackle and blocking departments.
He’s earned multiple all-star honors for his offensive and defensive prowess, but not everyone knows who he is.
Is Adams perhaps the most underrated player in the L-L League?
“I would say he is,” Annville-Cleona coach Matt Gingrich offered. “Our section, we all know who he is. But probably not too many people outside of it.”
Adams made the rounds to get his name and his skill set out there this summer, with camp road trips to Pitt, Villanova, Lehigh, Youngstown State, St. Francis, East Stroudsburg, Millersville and Bloomsburg.
“I was getting around a lot this summer,” Adams said, chuckling. “I was at a different camp like every week.”
He got plenty of good feedback from those camp stops, and Adams said Villanova, Lehigh and Bloomsburg check in most often as his recruiting process heats up.
Adams anchors Northern Lebanon’s 4-2-5 defensive scheme from his middle linebacker spot, and he’s been a force, helping the Vikings to a 2-1 start heading into Friday’s game at Lebanon.
“He’s a ball-hawk, bloodhound type of guy,” Rice said. “In our defensive package, we have calls where he pretty much just mirrors the football. He has that natural knack of knowing where the ball is going, so we give him that freedom of doing so.”
Those calls are paying off.
In three games, Adams has piled up 31.5 tackles, including nine hits for losses and four sacks. That includes an epic 11-tackle, 3-sack night in Northern Lebanon’s 13-7 season-opening win over Pine Grove, which snapped the Vikings’ 12-game losing streak.
Adams, who is also a standout wrestler in Northern Lebanon’s powerhouse mat program, has earned enough street cred now that teams will go out of their way to run and pass away from him.
“When you have other coaches telling you that they have to game-plan for 52 (Adams),” Rice said, “that’s the biggest compliment you can get.”
Safe to say Adams’ name comes up early and often when teams are putting together their game plans for Northern Lebanon.
“When you look at (Northern Lebanon) you always have to make sure you know where he’s at, and what he’s doing,” said Gingrich, who must game-plan for Adams and the Vikings for the Section Four opener on Oct. 1.
“He’s one of those kids that you could put anywhere,” Gingrich continued. “He’s a kid that can be all over the place. He can do anything. He’s a premier player. He’s phenomenal. He’s a special player. He’s very impressive to watch.”
Plenty of college coaches got to watch Adams this summer on his camp tour.
“Going up against those guys, it really built up my competition level,” Adams said. “I liked going up against some new competition and against guys with different styles. And being coached up by college coaches, I loved that. I got to make a lot of new connections, so hopefully it all works out.”
Adams has no scholarship offers to date but playing at the next level is definitely a goal. Everything he does these days is for the team first, then for building toward a college career.
His transformation began the summer before his junior year in 2020.
“I really picked it up over last summer,” Adams said. “I’m not sure what it was, but I really kicked it into overdrive. With COVID and not having much to do, I lifted and I ran the entire summer.”
Ditto this past summer, when Adams and teammate Dwight Ostermayer basically locked themselves in the weight room.
“Even the coaches couldn’t get us out of there,” Adams said, laughing.
“There were times this summer when we would lift and then go outside to do conditioning,” Rice said, “and the next thing you know Kalani is like hey coach, leave some extra cones out here. We’re wrapping up and getting ready to leave the campus, and he’s still out there doing ladder drills by himself. He has the mentality of what it takes.”
Adams also has become a film-study junkie over the last year, breaking down plays in intricate detail to learn more about the game, and how to attack the opposition.
“I just have this drive to play in college,” Adams said. “I’m really competitive. I hate losing. If it’s a 1-on-1 situation on the football field, I want to win it every time. I’m glad everything is coming together, especially with the team.”
A 2-1 start and some much better vibes around Northern Lebanon’s team after a 2-26 clip over the previous three seasons. Adams — his leadership, work ethic and tireless effort on and off the field — has had a lot to do with that.