College Sports

Navy football twin brothers Josh and Terrell Adams persevere through family tragedy to reach senior seasons

Twins Josh (14) and Terrell Adams (41) have been nearly inseparable since birth. They came to the Naval Academy together and are now in their senior years. They were there for each other at the most difficult time of their lives last year when their mother and grandmother passed away of COVID-19 within a day of each other.

Twin brothers Josh and Terrell Adams were born about a minute apart. They’ve been inseparable ever since — through the good times and bad.

They always attended the same schools and played on the same sports teams. Terrell, who noted the twins shared the same bedroom until they were sophomores in high school., distinctly remembers the first time he and Josh were apart for a long period of time.


Josh qualified for the Alabama state track and field championships meet as a freshman at Ramsey High and Terrell didn’t. Stuck back in Birmingham, Terrell called Josh constantly on the cell phone to find out how things were going.

That unbreakable bond followed the Adams twins to the Naval Academy where they became varsity football players. They were there for each other during the darkest time in their lives.


Unimaginable tragedy

In late September last year, Josh and Terrell’s mother, Michelle, died due to COVID-19. Navy football practice had just ended and they were sitting side-by-side on a bench outside the locker room when the call came from their father, Jerome.

“We were taking off our tape when our dad called and gave us the news that our mom didn’t make it,” Josh said.

Michelle Adams had been hospitalized for several weeks after contracting the coronavirus, but the brothers did not tell even their closest friends on the football team “because we never thought it would get to that point,” Josh said.

Josh and Terrell were immediately comforted and consoled by teammates. They believe it was God’s grace that Naval Academy chaplain Holly Short happened to be in attendance at practice that day and was able to pray with them.

While traveling back to Birmingham the next day, the Adams twins received a second shock. Their grandmother, Sally Mae Stitt, also died from COVID. Losing two loved ones in the span of two days was almost too much to bear.

“It really puts a weight on your shoulders that is hard to carry around,” Josh said. “It’s taken a real toll on me. I almost lost it in the classroom.”

“We’re a very religious family so we leaned on God to guide us and help our hearts be at peace,” Terrell said.

East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers gets the ball away before Navy's Terrell Adams can get to him during the second quarter of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Annapolis, Md. (Paul W. Gillespie/The Baltimore Sun via AP)

For Jerome Adams Sr., whose world was turned upside down by the back-to-back deaths of his wife and mother, the upcoming anniversary of the terrible tragedy will be painful.


“I still can’t believe it happened,” Jerome said. “Life has been so different without my wife. I go home each day and think she is going to be there.”

While still going through the grieving process, Jerome was immediately concerned about his twin sons and urged them to not allow their sense of loss overwhelm them. He and Michelle dreamed of attending the Naval Academy graduation when Josh and Terrell were commissioned as officers.

“The boys know how much my wife and I wanted that for them. I didn’t want them to give up and quit,” Jerome said. “I told them to be strong, trust the Lord and keep pressing forward. I said use your momma as motivation.”

Staying together

Growing up, Josh and Terrell were determined to attend college together. At the time, Division III Birmingham Southern was the only other school that recruited both.

Several other schools recruited the brothers separately, but they were thrilled when Navy assistant Ashley Ingram came through with an offer. Ingram actually called Josh first, a fact he’s held over Terrell’s head ever since.

“I remember Josh came and told me that Coach Ingram was about to call me,” Terrell said. “Josh likes to say that he’s better than me because he got offered first.”


While the twins were initially hesitant because of the mandatory service commitment, their parents encouraged their sons to accept the challenge and not miss out on a great opportunity.

“We were extremely happy they would get a great education, would have a guaranteed job after graduation and would get a chance to serve,” said Jerome, noting Terrell and Josh’s grandfathers both served in the military.

Jerome and Michelle both attended college but did not graduate, going to work as a commercial truck driver and pharmacy technician, respectively. Their daughter Amber graduated from Alabama-Birmingham, while Josh and Terrell are two semesters away from earning degrees from one of the most prestigious institutions in the country.

“Both boys have always been very diligent students and I knew they would push each other in that tough academic environment,” Jerome said. “My wife and I created a slogan: ‘Be the best.’ We told our children that didn’t mean competing against everyone else. It was about doing everything in their power to achieve all they could.”

The twins are extremely competitive and often got into arguments while growing up. Josh remembers playing board games and accusing Terrell of cheating whenever he was losing.


“Even now we still have arguments when we might get to pushing and shoving; Fortunately, it doesn’t go too far anymore,” Terrell said.

Jerome Adams spent a week in Annapolis while attending the Delaware and Memphis home games. He took the boys to Macy’s to buy some clothing and cologne and saw the same behavior he did whenever the family went to the grocery store back in Birmingham.

“One of them punched the other and the next thing you know they’re wrestling,” he said. “I was like: you all have been doing this stuff forever.”

Josh gets annoyed whenever Terrell tries to tell him things he already knows, such as assignments in football. Terrell gets annoyed that Josh “struggles with technology” and is always asking questions about how to operate IPad apps or PS5 functions.

East Carolina quarterback Holton Ahlers gets the ball away before Navy's Terrell Adams can get to him during the second quarter of a game Nov. 20, 2021, in Annapolis.

Leaning on each other

The Adams twins were direct-entry recruits to the Naval Academy and had each other to lean on for support during the always difficult plebe summer.

“It was a shell shock at first, but we leaned on each other to make it through that tough time,” Terrell said. “I remember we couldn’t wait until sports period when we got to see all our football brothers. That was our escape.”


One would think the brothers would begin to go their separate ways after settling in at the Naval Academy, but that has not been the case. They are both majoring in math with economics and have numerous classes together. Despite living on opposite ends of Bancroft Hall, they routinely get together for meals or to do homework.

They even have the same friends group, usually hanging out with fellow football players Derek Atwaters, Maasai Maynor and Mark Walker.

“Me and Terrell always come to each other if we have a bad day in the classroom, in the hall or at practice,” Josh said. “We can confide in each other and lift each other up. It’s been a real blessing to have my twin brother here to help me through this place.”

Despite being fraternal twins, the Adams brothers look remarkably similar. Both stand 6-foot, but Terrell — a 227-pound inside linebacker — is slightly bigger than his 198-pound brother, who is a safety.

“People get us mixed up all the time. Mids from Josh’s company will call me by his name. I’ll see people around campus that I don’t know who say hello because they think I’m Josh,” Terrell said.

After serving on the scout team and playing in junior varsity games as plebes, the two began to ascend the depth chart as sophomores. After Josh was issued jersey No. 14, Terrell requested to wear No. 41. When asked why, Terrell said he “wanted to be the inverse of my brother.” Their slogan — all for one and one for all — is a play on those reverse numbers.


Terrell Adams played in 10 games with three starts at outside linebacker in 2020, but missed most of last season with an injury. He is a member of the kickoff and punt coverage units this season.

Meanwhile, Josh Adams, who has played in 21 career games, is a member of the punt return team. Despite no longer being on the depth chart, the Adams brothers have been leaders as seniors.

“Me and Terrell like to be the two guys on the sideline hyping guys up and bringing that energy,” Josh said.

Added Terrell: “We try to set an example for our position group by always competing and working hard at all times.”

Coach Ken Niumatalolo described the twins as “model citizens” and appreciates the work ethic they display daily despite not getting the playing time they would like.

“Josh and Terrell are two of the greatest young men I’ve ever coached. They come to work every day and lead by example,” Niumatalolo said. “They do everything the right way and have never been in any trouble. They’re just really good human beings and great representatives of our program.”


An extended brotherhood

Following their mother and grandmother’s passing, the healing process for the twins began while they were still in Birmingham for the two funerals. They watched on television as Navy, which started the 2021 season 0-3, beat Central Florida on Oct. 2 in Annapolis.

Afterward, Josh and Terrell got a FaceTime call from a group of teammates who told them the victory was dedicated to their mother and grandmother.

“All the guys lifted us up. You find out what the Navy football brotherhood is all about when you go through tough times like we did,” Terrell said.

Terrell and Josh hope to receive Marine Corps Ground as a service selection. If that comes to fruition, they would spend six months going through The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, before getting orders.

Jerome Adams has no idea how his sons will handle being separated if stationed in different locations. “It’s going to be tough because they’ve never been apart except for a few days,” he said.

In late May, they will graduate from the Naval Academy during a ceremony at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium — the site of so many fond memories in terms of football. They have no regrets about attending a service academy together.


“It’s been a great experience and everything we dreamed of — going to school and playing ball together,” Josh said. “We’ve created a second family here and have been able to really grow as men.”

Navy football player Josh Adams