Kadeem Adams is a Nova Scotian who went down the road to find his place in football.
An offensive lineman with pro potential when he played at Citadel High School a few years back, he chose the Western Mustangs over all the locals who wanted him to stay in the Maritimes.
But after four seasons with the Mustangs in London, Ont., the 22-year-old Adams will come home to play his final season, joining new coach James Colzie III and the rebuilding Saint Mary's Huskies for his final CIS season.
Adams, in training camp recently with the Saskatchewan Roughriders, can play this year under transfer rules that allow students entering a graduate program to avoid skipping a season between the lines.
He's a perfect fit for the Huskies, and not just for the six-foot-four, 290-pound body. The two-time OUA all-star will bring a veteran presence to a team in need of leadership as it seeks to rebound from consecutive winless seasons under former coach Perry Marchese.
Adams said this week that some of his reasons for returning to Nova Scotia to play are personal, but that those reasons have nothing to do with the Western football program, which is a perennial OUA contender.
"I want to be home and playing around my family and friends again," said Adams, a natural tackle who was moved inside to guard and centre in CFL camp. "I have that opportunity and I'm grateful for it."
His football roots are here. He treasures the memory of a Team Canada under-19 world championship in 2012 in Texas with a group of other Nova Scotia players including Jacob LeBlanc, Adam Melanson, Andreas Robinson and A'dre Fraser.
As for his recent pro opportunity, he said he's not discouraged. He's dealt with some shoulder injuries over the past few years and will have another year to get healthier for a second attempt at the CFL.
"It's a different pace," said Adams, who was picked up by the Riders as a free agent after going unclaimed in the May draft. "The guys are a lot bigger. Everything is bigger and faster, but I think I did well. They want me back there next year."
Adams grew up in Halifax in an era when the Huskies won the AUS almost every year. It hasn't been that way in recent times and an inept offence has been a big part of it.
Colzie has brought a renewed fire to the Huskies. He was the defensive co-ordinator under Blake Nill with the Vanier Cup champion UBC Thunderbirds and intends to turn the program around in his first season.
"It's going to be a little different than Western, but we have the same goal in mind and that's to win games," Adams said. "I know with Coach Colzie coming in, there's going to be a different kind of feeling at Saint Mary's this year and I'm happy to be part of it."
He has no regrets about his time with the Mustangs, other than the fact the program had a disastrous run of quarterback injuries at the most inopportune times.
"Overall, it was a special four years," he said. "I would have loved to win a Vanier Cup, but we broke a lot of records both in our conference and in the CIS. It was definitely a great experience."
He knows a handful of the guys on his team and around the conference. Huskies offensive lineman Marcus MacIsaac, who went to Lockview, had extensive talks with Adams about the team.
During summer workouts at Saint Mary's over the past few years, Adams often remembered growing up in football in the area.
"I played with the Halifax Argos down here and won a couple of championships when I first started playing," he said. "It feels good to be back."
Colzie said Adams has been with the team for a few weeks.
"He won a lot of games at Western," said Colzie. "He's been through it."
Colzie said his players have turned out to be some of the best recruiters he's ever been around.
"He wanted to be on the right train," Colzie said of Adams. "I think he's heard that we're doing the right things over here and we're striving to be successful this year. I think he welcomed that opportunity and we're glad to have him."
Saint Mary's opens the regular season at Acadia on Sept. 10.