For years, James Brown was known as “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business,” but Anthony “Spice” Adams is coming for that crown.
Whether it’s flying around the world for an appearance or booking a hosting gig, the former San Francisco 49ers and Chicago Bears defensive lineman has been a busy man since retiring from the NFL.
Adams has become a household name on social media and in the worlds of comedy and entertainment. While he describes his rise as a blessing, his post-NFL journey wasn’t one he ever expected or even wanted to be a part of.
“It started like a dare,” Adams said. “It was Chris Harris and Earl Bennett. They were like the social media gurus [on the team]. I didn’t even want to get on Twitter, and they were the ones who were like, ‘You need to get on Twitter.’ I was like, ‘This is stupid.’”
It’s hard to imagine that Adams, with all his charisma and charming personality, would shy away from something so perfectly suited for him.
Even though he resisted, Harris, a former Bears and Carolina Panthers safety, wouldn’t let his teammate off the hook that easy. Harris still remembers the conversation he and Spice had when it all started.
“When we were playing together back in Chicago, I was heavy into social media. That was when Twitter really started booming,” Harris told me. “He was the locker room jokester. We had a few on our team, but he was definitely one of ’em. I knew it would be funny. I explained to him that social media was a way to market yourself and get out your own message.”
Eight years later, the “dare” has turned Adams into a reinvention of himself, and his post-NFL career has reached new heights. He’s become one of the more recognizable faces on social media today, with over 1.6 million followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.
As Adams’ following has grown, so has his commitment to his new craft. He started his own production company, with the goal of improving his content’s quality.
“You know what, man? I didn’t know if he was going to take it seriously or not. I definitely didn’t think he’d be as big as he is right now,” Harris said with a laugh. “But I knew if he got on there, people would enjoy it. Anytime you got a million people that want to see what you do, you’re an icon.”
Adams, who describes himself as more of an entertainer than a comedian, says his improvisational and sketch comedy is inspired by the likes of Dave Chappelle, Chris Farley and the entire cast of In Living Color. He’s even tested his improv skills as a part of Old Spice’s Foam Zone campaign.
“It makes me feel good that I’m able to do something after football — that my life is not revolving around me being Anthony Adams, the football player. A lot of people don’t even know I played football,” he said. “I think that’s confirmation that I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
Now a co-host of ABC’s Great American Baking Show and Inside the Bears locally in Chicago and an analyst on Big Ten Network: Live, Adams has made a smooth transition from social media to television. He has also made cameos on HBO’s Ballers and Comedy Central’s Detroiters.
His growing following and television experience could open the door for a show of his own in the future.
“I don’t want to limit myself to one thing,” Adams said. “As long as it’s entertainment, I’m good. It could be hosting, acting in a show, having my own show or sitcom, a comedy special, whatever the case may be. I’m all for it.”
After nine seasons in the NFL, Adams retired from the NFL in 2013. Like many others before him, had to figure out what the next phase of his life would hold.
Even after receiving an executive MBA from George Washington University, he still needed to find something to be passionate about.
The hole football left remained.
“When you’re done with football, you don’t know what you want to do. You’re trying to find your identity. There’s no ease after [retirement],” Adams said. “When I started, I was posting these videos, but at the end of the day, you still got money going out of your account. But I kept posting and started to get more opportunities, most of them being from somebody seeing my videos.
“You gotta find your niche. When you play football, you’re like: ‘Wow, I get paid to do this. It doesn’t even feel like work.’ If you can find something that makes you feel like football does and feeds that passion, like making videos did [for me], you’re home free.”
He still does sketches about football and has a good time with former teammates in person and in comments under his videos, but he hasn’t looked back.
The 38-year-old hopes his impact can be felt through his growth in entertainment and on social media, not only by the people who watch him but also the next generation of players who retire from the NFL.
“A lot of football players get stuck in the mold of only being a football player. So you look at what Thomas [Q. Jones] has been able to do with acting, [Michael] Strahan, even somebody like Jon Runyan, what he’s been able to do in the political arena,” Adams said. “Possibilities are endless. When you’re done playing, you think life is over, but it’s just beginning.”