LAS VEGAS – It really is, with apologies to Charles Dickens, a tale of two dressing rooms. Or a baseball clubhouse and a football locker room.
Because in the sanctum of the San Francisco Giants, well known is the story of All-Star outfielder Joc Pederson, who ranked wideout ahead of Las Vegas Raiders All-Pro receiver Davante Adams on their high school football team’s depth chart. With a well-intentioned eye roll. Or three.
“Yeah, I might have heard that story a bit,” Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford said with a grin this summer. “He definitely mentioned it a couple of times, something about his numbers and that he’s a ‘wide receiver 1’.
“I just assumed Davante would double[-teamed] every night so Joc was open. I kind of thought so.”
On the other side of the clubhouse, Giants ace Logan Webb, who grew up outside of Sacramento as a big Raiders fan, is more than impressed.
“I think it’s great, especially because he was technically ahead of him and Davante is now the No. 1 receiver in the whole league,” laughed Webb. “That’s pretty cool. I would make fun of Joc and say, ‘Where has that athleticism gone?’”
But about 500 miles southeast of the Bay Area, in the Raiders’ desert quarters, the story is a non-starter.
“I had no idea,” said Raiders Pro Bowl punter AJ Cole, a die-hard Braves fan who recalled Pederson’s exploits in Atlanta’s run to the 2021 World Series title. “Must be a talent factory. I want to see some stats to need to see some statistics.”
And safety Johnathan Abram, who faces Adams in practice every day and was a highly regarded high school baseball contender in Mississippi, wanted proof. “For real?” Abram pondered. “It’s a crazy statistic. Look at those two boys now.”
Pederson is a two-time World Series champion with 702 hits and 171 homers in nine major league seasons. Adams, whose 1-3 Raiders play the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN+/ABC), is a two-time All-Pro receiver with 695 career receptions for 8,411 yards and 76 touchdowns in eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers and four games with the Raiders.
So how, you might be wondering, given the career paths Adams and Pederson have taken, was a future two-time All-Pro pass catcher a backup for a future two-time Home Run Derby contender in the one year they played together ?
Both have developed successfully in their respective sports. In fact, in September 2014, they made their respective big league debuts within three days of each other.
But in 2009, all eyes were on the Palo Alto (California) High School football field.
THEY HAVE BEEN CALLED “X-Power” on the field, both a nickname for the duo and a reference to the position they shared as prep receiver.
“I was backup ‘X’,” Adams said. “Even if we were on the field at the same time.”
Adams was a junior in the fall of 2009 and Pederson was a senior. Adams also played his freshman year in organized football since breaking his left arm playing football in eighth grade.
“It was the first game, the last game of the first half,” Adams said. “I was a quarterback. I just said, ‘I’m done with this S—. I’m not breaking bones.'”
Three years later, with the support of his family, Adams joined Pederson on the Palo Alto soccer team. The two had been “close friends” since middle school, Adams said, and had been teammates on the Vikings basketball team. It was here that Adams made his first big impression on Pederson.
“I just remember we played basketball and he was a freshman, I was a sophomore and he always was to attempt immerse, to attempt to dunk,” Pederson recalled. “He could dunk, but the next year he was doing 360s. It just went to a whole other level of “Woah, that’s…” between the legs, 360s, everything.
“I think he could win a dunk contest in the NBA. That’s what a special athlete he is.”
Well, after his first touchdown with the Raiders in the season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Chargers, Adams celebrated with a pseudo-Isaiah Rider-style “East Bay Funk Dunk.” In the air, while still climbing towards the SoFi Stadium goalpost, he caught the ball between his legs and dropped the pigskin harmlessly into the end zone just before dunking the ball over the bar.
In high school, it was Pederson who stood out.
“He was a dog,” Adams said of his partner in geology class.
“He was a damn good player,” Adams continued. “He showed me a lot. I wouldn’t look at him like the vet because he was always a bit of a dope in high school, just to paint the picture. But he was… a stud in all three sports [football, basketball and baseball].
“And me [already] knew so much about football so it wasn’t that kind of vibe. But I learned a lot from him as he’s kind of an old man and watches him from afar. … He was one of the baddest [teammates] I ever had He wanted to talk some shit.”
That conversation was sometimes directed at their football coach, Earl Hansen, a legend in the coaching ranks at South Bay High School, who counts Jim Harbaugh as one of his early quarterbacks and who has won more than 200 combined games in 31 seasons in Palo Alto and the San Lorenzo Valley .
In fact, Hansen, known as the “Silver Fox,” said he kicked Pederson off the team in early 2009 after Hansen said it was “an outburst.”
Pederson was back soon enough after making amends, and Adams recalled Pederson going in his first return game with 100 yards in a quarter against San Jose Archbishop Mitty High.
“That was back before anyone actually did it prey‘ said Adams. “He did prey. He scored and threw the ball back. That was old school where you wore 16 ties on your arms. He was one of those who did. He did the baseball thing, so he had something exclusive drops he would give us too. The camouflage long sleeve and all that.”
Statistics? Cole, the Raiders player, wanted stats.
The 2009 Palo Alto team went 7-2-2, with Pederson catching 30 passes for 650 yards (21.7 yards per catch) and nine touchdowns, and Adams, also a freshman year in organized high school football, catching 25 Passes for 484 yards caught (19.4 YPC) and seven TDs.
You can see both in action here
Pederson (#6) with a nice catch and run to set up a touchdown catch from Adams (#10). pic.twitter.com/4sLT5Ivlib
— Baseball Quotes (@BaseballQuotes1) January 17, 2021
“Basically, in his freshman year, he knew what he was supposed to be doing, but he didn’t know what the others were supposed to be doing,” Hansen, who retired after the 2013 season, said of Adams. “It did not take long.
“It was fun, we could call all sorts of plays and it would work. It was pretty special. We were having a pretty good year until our quarterback got injured.”
Pederson recalls how elusive Adams was after he made the catch.
“It’s not that he’s super, super fast, but his speed just stands out,” said Pederson. “If there is one person trying to attack him, that one person will not attack him. Don’t even touch it, really. He just finds a way to tease you. It’s pretty impressive.”
The NFL defensemen agree.
PEDERSON GRADUATED IN In the spring of 2010, he focused exclusively on baseball and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 11th round of MLB’s June draft. He then spent time in minor league outposts such as Midland, Michigan, Rancho Cucamonga, California, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
In the fall of 2010, with Adams firmly entrenched as WR1, Hansen’s Vikings won the California Division I state title 14-0. Adams earned a Fresno State scholarship and went from an unranked recruit to a second-round draft pick in 2014 the Packers.
Pederson made his major league debut on September 1, 2014 at Dodger Stadium, attempting to end the game with Juan Uribe at third base and Carl Crawford initially in a 6-4 loss to the Washington Nationals. Adams made his NFL debut three days later in Seattle, playing 18 snaps (nine on offense, nine on special teams) and not having a pass in the Packers’ 36-16 loss to the Seahawks.
Despite such awkward beginnings in their professional careers, they have found success. And they’ve stayed in touch with the occasional text. Adams and Raiders quarterback Derek Carr was particularly pleased to see Pederson homer and then talk trash to a fan who rode him in Milwaukee earlier this season after Adams sent Carr a link to the video on Instagram would have.
But these are strange days for Pederson, who will not play in the postseason for the first time in his big league career after being part of the Dodgers’ last two 2020 World Series champions (one of six LA playoff teams, in which he played). and the Braves last year. Adams is still chasing his first Lombardi Trophy as he gets his sea legs on the rough Raiders ship and suffers three straight losses before beating the Denver Broncos in Week 4.
“He loves it,” Pederson said. “I mean, the Raiders have been his favorite team since he was a little kid and it’s kind of a dream come true.
“He just kept growing at Fresno State and he just kept improving in the NFL. He’s hungry to get better and it’s been a fun journey to watch him do it.”
https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/34741942/raiders-davante-adams-giants-outfielder-joc-pederson-were-high-school-wide-receiver-teammates Raiders’ Davante Adams, Giants outfielder Joc Pederson were high school wide receiver teammates