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Bears icon Anthony ‘Spice’ Adams talks NFL career, social media stardom, Thanksgiving and more!

In an exclusive interview with Windy City Gridiron, Anthony ‘Spice’ Adams talks about his time with the Bears, his career as an online personality, his grilling habits, and much more.

New York Jets v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As those who follow Anthony Adams on social media know, the former NFL veteran gets good use out of his grill.

From his YouTube channel with over 390,000 subscribers to his Instagram page with over 1.3 million followers, Adams has made plenty of comedic skits involving grills in some sort. Whether he be making parodies to Lil Wayne songs about grilling as his character Vernest T or making fun of your “oldhead” uncle or dad at a family cookout, the former Bears defensive tackle has become synonymous with grilling in his meteoric rise to social media stardom.

That makes it a natural pairing to put him and Kingsford Charcoal together, and it is that partnership that has Adams prompting football fans to get some use out of their grills this Thanksgiving.

“[Kingsford] sent me their wood pellets—their hickory, cherrywood, maplewood—because I love the smoky flavor,” Adams told Windy City Gridiron in an exclusive interview. “And, a lot of times during Thanksgiving, people cook in the oven. I want to cook on the grill, because there’s nothing like that smoky flavor from the pellets.

“Sometimes, people use thirty percent flavorwood and whatever to supplement their wood with oils and other fillers,” he said. “But Kingsford, they’re 100 percent flavor hardwood. I want that 100 percent, all-natural flavor on my burger when I’m cooking. There’s nothing like it. It’s unmatched when you think about eating different foods. That smoky flavor, there’s nothing like it. I don’t care what you do, I don’t care how you slice it, but that smoke flavor—especially on a turkey—it’s unmatched.”

Divisional Playoffs - Seattle Seahawks v Chicago Bears Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As a nine-year NFL veteran who spent much of his career weighing at over 300 pounds along the interior defensive line, Adams relied on meat to help keep him bulked up and strong, and in retirement he still maintains his grilling habits. That includes his Thanksgiving traditions, when he likes to go a bit outside of the box and use his grill, instead.

“I do a bacon-weaved turkey that I’m going to smoke,” Adams explained. “and the kids [Adams’ four children] love it. They ask me, ‘hey, dad, are you going to do the bacon turkey?’, so I bacon weave it on top of the turkey, and the turkey is already seasoned, so you get the seasoning from the turkey and the smoke flavor from the pellets, and it’s all going to the bacon and the turkey at the same time. It’s unbelievable, man. I think, if you put a lot of TLC in a lot of things you put on the grill, you’ve got to be happy with the outcome. This deal that I have with Kingsford, it makes so much sense.”

Adams enjoys cooking for his four children, and as he finds more free time to grill in retirement, his kids have served as not only grateful recipients of his meals, but also as objective critics of his work.

“Like I say, the kids love it,” he remarked. “The kids, they are so truthful when it comes to everything that you cook. If it’s something bad, they’re going to let you know, like, ‘hey, dad, that was kind of burnt’, or ‘hey, dad, that was too salty. I liked the other one that you cooked’. The kids love it, so that’s the ultimate test.”

Prior to his time as a grill-master and a social media influencer, Adams spent nine seasons in the NFL, with five of them coming with the Bears. Drafted as a second-round pick by the 49ers in the 2003 NFL Draft, Adams spent his rookie contract in San Francisco before signing with Chicago in the 2007 offseason.

The Bears had just come off of a Super Bowl appearance, losing to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI. Besides their dominant defense, Adams cited their location and their passionate fanbase as driving forces for his signing with Chicago.

“I’m a Midwest guy,” he responded. “I’m from Detroit, so coming back here to Chicago, to a town that’s kind of like a college town...when I was out in San Francisco, you had a chance to pick. You could pick between the 49ers, or you could the Raiders. It seemed like the area I was in—Santa Clara, where the [49ers’ Levi’s] stadium is now—there were a lot more Raiders fans than there were 49ers fans. Coming to Chicago, it’s all Chicago.”

Upon signing with the Bears on a four-year deal, Adams quickly realized exactly how passionate the Chicago fanbase was.

“I signed in March [of 2007], and they knew exactly who I was,” Adams elaborated. “Usually, you don’t know who a nose guard is. These are the unsung heroes, these are the guys that take on the double team and allow the linebackers to make the tackle. These are people that you should not know. In March, before the season even started, people were bringing me football cards that I didn’t even know I had, and they wanted me to sign them. There was a convention that they had downtown...and I was like, ‘wow. How do multiple people know who I am?’ Maybe like, one or two people, but there were hundreds of people coming up to me, asking me for an autograph. ‘Hey, Anthony Adams”, I’m like, ‘how do they know who I am?’ There was something different about the fans here, and I was like, ‘I dig it. I like it’.”

FBN-EAGLES-BEARS Jose M. Osorio /Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

Adams would go on to spend five seasons with the Bears, starting in 40 of the 63 games he played in that tenure. During that time, he tallied 144 tackles, 4.5 sacks, 18 tackles for a loss, and 14 quarterback hits.

His stat-line may not have popped off the charts when he played in the NFL, but he was a quality nose tackle who was able to shoot up the gap, hold up blocks in run support and free up linebackers in pursuit. Despite playing a less-than-glamorous position, Adams was content with simply doing his job and helping his teammates.

“We’re role players,” he stated. “We come in, we do what we’re supposed to do. If you do know who the nose guard is, I either did something extremely wrong, or I did something extremely good. You go out there and do your job every day, and nobody really knows who you are.”

Adams was an athletic player for his size, showing off nice burst off the snap for a 310-pound interior defender. That ability to accelerate and penetrate the backfield made him a valuable run defender for both the Bears and the 49ers, and he attributes that quickness with his overall sense of awareness and football intelligence.

“You have to know what the offense is doing to you, and I think that comes with reps,” Adams said. “It comes with a lot of practice reps, a lot of game reps, a lot of preseason reps. You get to the point where you know what the offense is doing to you by the snap of the ball, and you know where to exert all your power and energy to. Sometimes, exerting all your energy and power on a double-team, you’re just going to wear yourself out. I think it just comes with reps and understanding what the offense is trying to do to you. A lot of times, it’s really not a double-team. The guard is coming down to help the center really fast so that he can get up and go up to the linebacker, but you have to understand that. As soon as that double-team comes off, you should shoot into your gap. It’s easier said than done, because some teams do it a little more aggressively than others, and some people, they try to finesse it, and some people try to power their way into it, but you got to understand what they’re trying to do to you. I think that’s where a lot of young guys, they hurt themselves. A lot of times, they try to peek and see and guess where the running back is going to end up, but you always got to read your keys. I’d rather be 100 percent right than 75 percent right...not even think just react and trust your athletic ability.”

Despite the struggles that can come with defending against a zone-blocking scheme, Adams preferred going up against zone than he did a more power-based scheme, citing that his shorter stature made it easier for him to get out into space and make plays against the run.

“I love [defending against power schemes],” he said. “When you play zone, they’re going to try and cut you. And then I don’t have to wrestle against you. You can’t cut me, I’m already 5’11”! What are you cutting? I’m already cut. So when people try to cut me, I just jump over them or whatever. Then I get a chance to run sideline-to-sideline and to use all my force to tackle you, because I’m already mad I got to run and get through all of these 300-pounders to get to you. By the time I finally do get to you, I’m coming with that attitude, and I got no regard for my body. I’m sideline-to-sideline with no seatbelt, no brakes. I’m using all of it in the tackle.”

St. Louis Rams v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

A crowning achievement in Adams’ time with the Bears was his first postseason appearance. After the team finished 11-5, they won the NFC North and clinched a first-round bye. Adams had arguably his best year during his time in the Windy City, notching 37 tackles, two sacks, two forced fumbles and a career-best nine tackles for a loss.

The 2010 season was the most successful team Adams played on, as the Bears would not reach the playoffs in any other season he played. The 49ers also failed to reach the .500 mark in any of the four seasons for which he was a member of their roster, so the 2010 Chicago team that advanced to the NFC Championship holds a special place in his heart.

“My favorite memory was going to the playoffs, for me, for the first time,” Adams explained. “We played Seattle in that home game [in Jan. 2011]. I was going into, I think my eighth year at the time—I played nine—eight years without sniffing the playoffs. I’d never been, and this was my first time going. That week, I remember, I popped my calf. I felt a pop in my calf, and I’m just like, ‘oh my gosh, this is my first time going to the playoffs, I’m starting, everything is going good...and I got a huge setback’. For whatever reason, I put the sleeve on my calf and did a couple stretches here and there, got some treatment, and I was ready to go. I played in my first playoff game, and we won, and I was excited about it. We were one step closer to going to the Super Bowl, but we allowed the green team from up north [Green Bay Packers] to get into the playoffs, and then we saw them in the NFC Championship game. They scored the first two drives in us offensively and did not score the rest of the game offensively.”

Although the Packers would go on to defeat the Bears in the 2011 NFC Championship and win the Super Bowl, Adams still remembers his postseason experience fondly.

After the 2010 season—his eighth in the NFL—Adams would spend one more season with the Bears before being released in February of 2012. He would go on to retire one year later, announcing his retirement from a White Castle in a hilarious video that topped one million views on YouTube.

Adams had experimented with filming YouTube videos prior to his retirement, first going viral in July of 2012 for his debut video, “Stuff NFL Free Agents Say”. It was his retirement video that truly put him on the map as an online entertainer, and it ended up sparking a new career for the man affectionately nicknamed ‘Spice’.

“I was just having fun, and I just wanted to put my spin on the stereotype of what different people say: ‘what these people say, what that people say’,” Adams said on the topic of his debut video. “And I was just like, ‘nobody has anything about what stuff that NFL free agents would say’. I just put it out there, and I let some of my teammates see it. It was like, ‘hey, man, should I put this out on YouTube?’, and everybody was like ‘yeah! We see you acting like this all the time in the locker room, but nobody else gets to see it. Put it out there and see what happens’. I put it out, and it was a great response, and then I followed it up the next week with something else, and then I was like, ‘man, maybe I may be on to something’. Then, fast forward all the way to the retirement video, and that just blew up instantly. As soon as I hit enter on the keyboard, ESPN’s assignments were asking can they use it, and I said ‘yeah’, and by the time I stood up from my office to go into the living room, Trey Wingo was talking about it already.”

“It was crazy. I went to check my email on Yahoo, and on the front page, it was saying, ‘Anthony Adams is the greatest NFL free agent of all-time’, I’m just like, ‘what is going on?’ It was everywhere. Of course it was in the local news out here in Chicago, but then my phone was ringing, my email was going crazy, everything was buzzing. Everybody wanted an interview and everything. It was overwhelming and unbelievable all at the same time.”

Since his pivot from playing football to making videos online and serving as a media personality and comedian, Adams has reached incredible heights online. Several of his bits have become a major part of meme culture, including his parody of Bazzi’s ‘Mine’ about Chik-fil-A’s fries, as well as his trademark laugh.

Though he initially found fame as a player in the NFL, Adams has since found that more and more of his fans were unaware that he even played professional football.

“For me, it’s confirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to do, and that’s entertain. I just think it’s funny how sometimes, on a Throwback Thursday, I’ll put a picture up of me in a 49ers uniform making a tackle or something like that, and people are like, ‘man, your photoshop skills are really, really good’. And I’m just like, ‘no, I actually got drafted in the second round, and I played nine years in the NFL’. People are just like ‘wow, man. I thought you were just a funny dude, I just thought you did videos on all these social medias’. To me, it’s confirmation that I’m doing supposed to do.

“I just did a podcast with T.O. [Terrell Owens], and he was talking about that. Terrell Owens and I were teammates [in San Francisco] in 2003, my rookie year. We had a good laugh about it, because he was looking up all my stats compared to his Hall of Fame stats. And so, he’s just like, ‘I don’t see a Hall of Fame on here, I don’t see an All-Pro, I don’t see Pro Bowls, nothing. What did you do? Did you play in the NFL?’”

Though a lot of his social media content doesn’t necessarily revolve around football, he is still involved in the world of the game he used to play. As the co-host of Inside the Bears on FOX, Adams is still heavily involved in the Bears’ organization and takes his role as a media personality to showcase the personalities behind the team’s players, much like he did with himself as a YouTuber.

“I love the opportunity that they have presented to me to represent them and then speak on their behalf a lot of time,” Adams mentioned. “And to be a former player who has a voice on the Chicago Bears network. They took a chance on me to host the Inside the Bears show that they created, and I’m forever grateful. I’m forever grateful that they allowed me to play football for the beloved Chicago Bears, and then I’m on the Chicago Bears network as a host. It’s a lot of fun: off-the-field fun and entertainment. We don’t get off into a lot of Xs-and-Os; you just find out who a player is underneath the helmet. You can see his face, and you can understand what his thoughts are or his philanthropic endeavors, people’s foundations and things like that. We have a good time. I’ve been doing it for seven seasons, and I have a good time, myself and Lauren Screeden, my co-host. She grew up in Rockford, so this is her dream job. It’s my dream job, as well, to be able to entertain folks in the Chicago area, people who are Chicago Bear fans but live in Hawaii, or they in California or live in Colorado. They get a chance to go to ChicagoBears.com and check out our shows. It’s been great for me.”

Adams thoroughly enjoys creating content and serving as a media personality, saying that his interactions with fans, the opportunities he has received, and the idea of going out and entertaining people are some of his favorite things about his newfound career.

In addition to his role on Inside the Bears and his presence on social media, Adams is also the co-host of the Great American Baking Show, the American adaptation off the famous British television series The Great British Bake Off. Such opportunities have exposed him to fans all over the world.

“First of all, it’s easier on your body, as opposed to being in a football game, but I just enjoy everybody relating to the videos. [People are] DM’ing me and saying, ‘ hey, man, you act just like my uncle’, or ‘you act just like my dad. Whenever I go to your videos, it’s nostalgic because whenever I watch it, it’s just like watching my dad or watching my uncle’ when I do the oldhead videos. Or if I do Cream Biggums...I didn’t even want to do the Cream Biggums video. I didn’t want to make him a character, but I did, and now he has over 300,000 followers on his Instagram, and he’s on NBA Live 19 as a character that you can pick. I never thought all of these characters and all of these videos would impact people the way that they have.

Cream E. Biggums is one of Adams’ most popular characters, and he even made an appearance in the 2020 NBA All-Star Celebrity game dressed as said character.

NBA: All Star-Saturday Night Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

“That was dope. I had a great time. I’m playing in the game with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, Horace Grant comes in the game. It was crazy. I was talking with Horace, and I’m like, ‘man, I need some of the goggles. The goggles I got, they’re good, but that’s Horace Grant, dude. Give me the plug’. It was great, playing with Bad Bunny, with Quavo, a lot of stars out there. Just for me to be in the mix, it was beyond dope. It was a good time, and the fact that it was in Chicago made it even better.”

“I was glad to be a part of it: a small part, but I was glad to be a part of it. Just to cross up Common the way that I did...”

As both a player and an analyst covering the Bears, he has been able to take his own experiences and observations and apply what he has learned to come up with his own takeaways from their recent cold stretch.

After starting the 2020 season at 5-1, the Bears have lost four straight matchups and have since fallen to 5-5. While they are still in second place in the NFC North and close in the playoff race, they have fallen apart in recent weeks. The NFL veteran believes that the Bears need to do some soul searching and use their recent bye week to take a look at themselves and determine what has gone wrong.

“You just throw everything out,” Adams said. “All the stuff that happened in the past, these past couple weeks, just throw it all out. Start from scratch. You use the bye week to get better—mentally, physically—and just go back to the basics with the run game, the defense, just throw out anything that may be confusing to you. Let’s just get down to the nitty gritty. Get down to the meat and potatoes of your offense, get down to the meat and potatoes of your defense. Self-scout, see what you have tendencies of doing, and get away from that. Start over, start from scratch. You start off the next season, if you will, against the green team up north. You win, it’s almost like two wins. You get another win, but you also get a win in the division.

“It’s got to start from maybe simplifying everything and taking out the playbook, and just do the simple things right, because the little things will end up becoming the big things if you don’t take care of them.”