Old soccer and football uniforms hang high on the wall above windows in Cambridge Academy’s small weight room.
In black marker on the wall next to one of the football jerseys is scrawled “Clemson Tampa Bay Chicago RIP Gaines” — a reminder of one of Greenwood’s best football success stories.
It’s the career path of Gaines Adams, who played three years of eight-man high school ball before starring at Clemson and going No. 4 overall to Tampa Bay in the 2007 NFL draft. Adams died in 2010 at age 26.
Especially at the start of a new season, Adams’ career is an exciting reminder to current Cambridge players of the school’s history. In a city home to 14-time state champion Greenwood High School, it was Cambridge that Adams chose to begin his journey to the NFL.
This season, Cambridge is combining with Palmetto Christian Academy of Greenwood to form an eight-man team called the Cambridge-Palmetto Cats.
Coach David Myers started the first practice of the season in a Clemson T-shirt and cap. He said Adams remains an example for any player.
“I’ve done as much reading as I can about Gaines Adams,” Myers said. “I know he was a Clemson player and he went to the NFL. I kind of followed him a little bit for the time he was in the NFL. I know that he was a great kid, a great ambassador for Cambridge. I know that he was a leader and a lot of guys looked up to him there.
“I talked to these guys (Cambridge-Palmetto players) a little bit about Gaines and his qualities. Those are the qualities you want in a football player. I think a lot of these guys follow that same path.”
Cambridge and Palmetto Christian Academy of Greenwood combined with Newberry Academy last season, but Newberry will have its own team in SCISA eight-man football this season. The Cats will play an independent schedule.
Charles Price, who has been a student at Cambridge for 11 years, will likely be the team’s starting quarterback this season. Price said he’s looking forward to continuing the program’s positive trajectory.
“We’ve got brand new coaches, brand new system in the offense and defense really,” Price said. “We have some new guys and some returning guys. A lot of talent this year, but I think playing as a team is going to be our biggest thing. If we can do that, we’re going to be very successful.”
Price figures to be a running quarterback. He will replace last year’s quarterback Matt Hegler, who graduated.
The Tri-Academy team went 1-9 last season. The team was hampered greatly by injuries. In a game late in the season, one of the team’s games ended early because Tri-Academy didn’t have enough players left.
“Personally, it’s staying healthy and doing the best you can do,” Price said of his goals this season. “We don’t have a whole lot of people and health is a concern. We had a lot of injuries last season.”
Myers, an Abbeville native, learned most of what he knows about coaching football from playing at Abbeville and coaching at Wright Middle School. He plans on implementing the same type of run-heavy system with which Abbeville won four straight state titles.
Running back James Austin will likely step up to take many more carries this season.
“I got some touches last year, but I didn’t get that much because Matt (Hegler) was a running quarterback,” Austin said. “It’s definitely going to be different.”
Turning Cambridge-Palmetto’s combined team into a winner is a work in progress, but Myers and Price said that great chemistry from last season is continuing into this season.
“I think it’s going to be a good season,” Price said. “I’m looking forward to it.”