MOBILE, ALA. — Penn State safety Adrian Amos read Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller's eyes, remaining patient as he anticipated the path of the throw.
Only a sophomore, Amos knew he had waited long enough to make his move. He jumped the passing lane and made the interception, a textbook move from the Calvert Hall graduate that probably would have gained the approval of former Ravens star safety Ed Reed, Amos' childhood idol.
No matter how jolting a tackle he delivered as a three-year starter for the Nittany Lions, Amos rarely showed much emotion. Instead of celebrating a big play, he routinely returned to the sideline or defensive huddle. Now Amos, on the cusp of reaching the NFL, is hoping to cap an impressive week auditioning for coaches and scouts by making some noise in Saturday's Senior Bowl all-star game.
"Two key plays tell you a lot about Adrian's personality," Calvert Hall coach Donald Davis said of the All-Big Ten Conference honorable-mention selection. "He made this huge interception when we beat Gilman to help us win the game. Our kids are jumping up and down, and he's just quiet. His first college interception as a freshman, he makes a pick and breaks down the sideline and just walks back to the sideline.
"He's just a tremendous kid. He's a character guy. His mom and dad are even-keeled people, good folks. He's a kid that comes from a great upbringing, and now he's going to the NFL. He's rangy. He can cover guys in the slot and outside. He can run and he'll hit you. His versatility makes him unique."
Growing up in a strict household in Rosedale as the son of a Baltimore City police officer, Adrian Amos Sr., Amos Jr. became accustomed to discipline.
If he forgot to do his chores, failed to address an adult appropriately or ran down the stairs, Amos Jr. already knew his punishment.
"My father raised me strict," Amos Jr. told The Baltimore Sun. "There were a lot of things I didn't understand back then but are paying off now. If I forgot to say, 'Yes, sir,' or, 'No, sir,' I knew it was time for pushups. But it gave me discipline."
Said Amos Sr.: "If he did something bad at his grandma's house, he had to walk up and down the steps. He got pushups. It makes you fit and it makes you remember."
It also helped Amos Jr. avoid the trouble he says many of his former classmates have encountered as young adults.
"I saw where people ended up," Amos Jr. said. "It's not good. It makes me glad I was raised the way I was."
To make it to college football's most prestigious all-star game and to be invited to the NFL scouting combine in February, Amos Jr. had to overcome obstacles. He dealt with NCAA sanctions at Penn State stemming from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal, the death of Penn State legend Joe Paterno, and three head coaching changes.
"I learned you can only control what you can control," Amos Jr. "I chose to stay there and go through all those things and live with my decision. Everything happens for a reason. Now I'm looking for an opportunity to be on a team and play in the NFL."
Amos Jr. ran the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds and posted a 35.5-inch vertical leap in the spring. The 6-foot, 215-pound Baltimore native is projected to be a third-to-fifth-round draft pick.
"We're just so proud of him," said Amos Sr., who played running back and defensive back at Chesapeake. "He sort of takes after me. I'm humble. He's a very humble 21-year-old. When I first heard he was playing in this game, I was probably more excited than he was. Adrian is the type of guy who's quiet. If something big happens, he's still quiet. When he gave me a call as soon as he found out he got picked, that's how I knew something serious had happened.
"He deserves this. He's worked hard. In high school, we always knew where he was. He was never out running the streets. He was in the gym trying to get better. He has the speed to play anywhere on the defense. It kind of runs in the family."
Showing an ability to break quickly on the ball while covering several top wide receivers in practice this week, Amos Jr. has impressed several scouts with his NFL readiness.
"I like this kid a lot," one AFC scout said. "You can see how smart and tough he is. He's really good."
As a Ravens fan, Amos Jr. grew up watching Reed and middle linebacker Ray Lewis.
"I've heard little stories about Ed Reed's film study, and that's why he was able to jump those routes and take those risks," Amos Jr. said. "It's because he watched it all week on film. It's helped me learn and be a better student of the game. I've learned how valuable that is."
Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage invited Amos Jr. to the game after getting a call from Penn State defensive coordinator Bob Shoop.
"Their defensive coordinator is a good friend of mine, and he recommended Amos very highly," said Savage, a former Ravens director of player personnel and Cleveland Browns general manager. "He's a big safety-corner, nickel back and special teams player. If you can do all those things, he's not going to have any problem in the NFL."
A former All-Metro first-team selection, Amos Jr. led Calvert Hall to a Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship with 78 tackles, four interceptions and four forced fumbles. He progressed rapidly after arriving at Calvert Hall as a 5-3, 140-pound freshman. By his senior year, he was up to 6 feet and 195 pounds.
"I never thought he was going to be an NFL player as a freshman, that's for sure," Davis said. "Now he looks like a freaking action figure."
Amos Jr. wasn't regarded as a top recruit until his senior year. He originally accepted a scholarship offer from Connecticut but chose to attend Penn State after current Maryland coach Randy Edsall left Connecticut.
"His recruiting was unique. … A lot of people forget he had committed early to Connecticut," Davis said. "He had a phenomenal senior season, and a lot of [schools] weren't coming in because he was a committed athlete. I'm sure folks are regretting that, because he's an outstanding kid and a tremendous player."
Amos Jr. played for the Nittany Lions as a true freshman before emerging as a starting cornerback as a sophomore. He played cornerback and safety as a junior, when he had 50 tackles, 2.5 sacks and an interception. He lined up at safety last season and recorded 41 tackles and three interceptions. He finished with seven career interceptions and 38 consecutive starts.
Cory Robinson of Next Level Nation, a skill development company, has coached Amos for several years and watched his protege develop through a steady approach.
"It's surreal," Robinson said. "I kind of pinch myself. You have a dream, and now he's right where we've always envisioned. You tend to get emotional. I'm like a big brother to him. There's a personal element to this. I've been a part of the journey. I'm fortunate to coach a kid with this kind of ability that's willing to listen to me.
"NFL teams are telling me Adrian's a great kid who checks out, character-wise. They've done their homework and really don't have to dig anymore. The best compliment I got from a team is they said he's one of those guys who's going to be around for a while in the NFL. They believe in him."
Amos Jr. said he has no preference about where he lines up in the NFL. Whether it's at cornerback or safety, Amos Jr. feels ready.
"This is a great opportunity to showcase my talents against some of the top players and talk to all these coaches and general managers," Amos Jr. said. "It's an honor to be here. They hold the key to my dream to play in the NFL."