Jamal Adams couldn’t leave his brother’s side.
Not now. Not when they both were so close to achieving the improbable on this April night in Philadelphia.
Adams, clad in a double-breasted, windowpane suit, had already donned the green baseball cap of his future franchise: the New York Jets. But the highly touted safety wouldn’t leave the green room on Day 1 of the NFL Draft until his former LSU teammate, Tre’Davious White, learned his fate.
“I told our agent and I told my family that I wanted to stay back and support him, no matter what. And they agreed,” Adams, the No. 6 overall pick, said in a phone interview this week. “I wanted Tre’ to know that no matter what round he went, no matter what pick, who goes before who, I was there to support him.
“I was there to be that brother, be that guy who wanted to see where he goes and support him. That’s what it was about.”
White eventually went 27th overall to the Bills, Adams’ division rival. Now, five months later, the best friends are budding stars in new-look secondaries for organizations in rebuild mode.
“That was the goal all along,” said White, the Bills’ rookie cornerback, said of being integral pieces for their franchises. “We wanted to be first-rounders. We wanted to be the guy that’s the first pick for a coach. That was our goal at LSU. And we did that.
“Now it’s time for us to make our mark in this league.”
Sunday’s season opener against the Jets marks the beginning of the Sean McDermott-Brandon Beane era in Buffalo. But it’s also a pivotal moment for White.
Long before he teamed up with Adams at LSU, White was a young boy in Shreveport, La., shadowing a hometown hero in the making: Morris Claiborne.
Claiborne, a Jets cornerback, still remembers.
White was only a kid back then, five years his junior. But Claiborne could see the young boy had undeniable talent and a determined spirit.
Claiborne’s AAU basketball team was en route to a game in Texas and in desperate need of “a fifth guy.” And White, who had tagged along with the AAU coach simply as a spectator, was more than happy to show off why people in the neighborhood called him "Baby Shaq."
By day’s end, White had helped Claiborne’s team win and their bond was cemented.
Claiborne, a fellow Shreveport native and LSU alum, was White’s idol, his mentor, the neighborhood star who was destined to escape the negativity and the violence that had plagued so many young men in their hometown.
“He took me under his wing since I was like 5 or 6,” said White, who went on to become a three-sport athlete and the valedictorian of his high school class, of his “godbrother” Claiborne.
“From then on, I used to be in his hip pocket. Everywhere he went, I went.”
While in high school, White stayed with Claiborne during the summer and trained alongside him. After Claiborne was drafted No. 6 overall by the Cowboys in 2012, White spent his college breaks in Dallas and trained some more.
Few make it out of Shreveport, they both acknowledged. But Claiborne always knew White had something special: the desire and the determination to be great.
They share the same story, the same struggles, and funny enough, a striking resemblance. “You put us side by side, you’ll be like, ‘What?’ " Claiborne joked. "Sometimes people are talking to him thinking they’re talking to me and vice versa.”
He and White also share the same dream: To be an example for those back in Shreveport.
Their familial bond wasn’t forged by blood, but White and Claiborne will forever be brothers. Just like White and Adams.
All three insisted that their week of preparation for Jets-Bills wouldn’t affect their close connection or their weekly FaceTime routines.
“When we get on the football field, I expect nothing but 100 (percent) from him,” said Claiborne, who asked White to be a groomsman in his March wedding. “I know he expects the same from me. I know he expects the same from Jamal. …You don’t let up. And then when we’re off the field, we know what it is: We’re family.”
“It’s bigger than football”
There’s just something about LSU football players, they said, especially those who roam the back end of the Tigers’ defense.
It’s a unique connection, said Claiborne.
It’s unspoken. It can’t be manufactured.
“It don’t matter when you played, what era you played in,” said the veteran defensive back, who signed a one-year, $5 million deal with the Jets in March after five seasons in Dallas. “You know the type of person you’re dealing with right off the bat when you’re talking about an LSU football player. Especially when you’re talking about an LSU DB.
“It’s the attitude. It’s the work ethic. It’s the time you put into it when you were at LSU. We know each other’s pain, each other’s struggles coming through LSU, being a DB, I can’t even explain it. It’s chemistry.”
Similar personalities, shared hobbies and common goals further fortified the friendship between the two rookies. “We have the same work ethic,” said White, who talks to Adams at least four times a week. “I knew he wanted to be great and he knew that about me.”
And on Sunday, White and Adams will look to showcase why they each were selected in the first round.
Claiborne, however, said neither of them can fully grasp the magnitude of this moment — and their roles for both franchises. “These guys right now, they don’t really understand what they mean to these organizations just yet,” he said.
“They know they’re here to play football. But they don’t really understand it just yet. They’re going out there right now, and they’re just laying it all on the line and it means so much to them.
“These are two guys who nonstop worked, knew what they wanted to do in life, didn’t let nobody tell them that it wasn’t going to happen for them. They blocked all that out. They beat all odds to be where they’re at right now. It’s just a blessing and it’s a great thing.”
This is what Adams and White had always envisioned: Suiting up on Sundays as first-round picks.
And that’s why Adams couldn’t leave his friend’s side on draft night.
They were racked by nerves as they waited to hear White’s name called. Finally, at pick No. 27, the Bills were on the clock.
“His whole family, all of them were around me,” White said. “I knew he was going to stay. This is my brother, man. Like I said, our connection is way deeper than football.”
As Adams sees it, the Bills got the steal of the draft: a Top 10 talent that almost slipped out of Round 1.
“There’s no negative in Tre’s game. And I can tell you that as someone that played with him,” the Jets safety said. “I have so much respect for him.
“In my eyes, he was the No. 1 corner coming out of the draft, but things didn’t happen that way. He’s out to prove everybody wrong. He has a big chip on his shoulder and he’s going to go to work. I know him.”
For four quarters, brotherly bonds will be put aside in order to get the first victory of the season. But what happens in between the white lines between these two division rivals won’t impact their relationship.
“I know Tre’s mindset and I know mine,” Adams said. “With every opportunity that’s presented to us, we just want to capitalize on it. Go out there and do what we do best.
“Enjoy our dream.”