South Carolina gunman 'struggled' after NFL career

By , Audacy

Several people close to Phillip Adams, the former NFL player who authorities say gunned down five people before taking his own life this week, have indicated he was troubled after he walked away from the game.

Adams' father, his agent, and a former Cowboys player who was friendly with Adams all suggested on Thursday that Adams had a negative experience in professional football, and had grown bitter over it in retirement.

Alonzo Adams, Phillip's father, offered condolences to the victims of his son's rampage, and said his son was a good person who went astray after football.

Among the victims were a prominent local physician, 70-year-old Dr. Robert Lesslie; his wife, Barbara; two of their grandchildren, Adah and Noah; and James Lewis, 38, an HVAC repairman who was working on the Lesslie's property in York County, South Carolina. Lewis' coworker, 38-year-old Robert Shook, was also critically injured in the shooting.

"I can say he was a good kid," Alonzo Adams said of his son. "He was a good kid and he didn't bother nobody. ... I think the football messed him up.

"We pray for the family. ... Dr. Lesslie used to be my doctor a long time ago, I know they were good folks. We're going to keep them in our prayers."

Lesslie had also treated Phillip Adams, The Associated Press reported.

Adams' agent, Scott Casterline, said Adams had a chip on his shoulder after his rookie year, when he suffered a significant ankle injury late in the season that required surgery. He was cut by the 49ers shortly before the next season, and according to Casterline was "written off" by some teams.

“He had an injury his rookie year,” Casterline told The Associated Press. “Some teams wrote him off, and he had that stigma of a guy who was hurt. His ability was better than a guy who bounced around a lot. All that weighed on him heavily. He had (six) years, a great career, but he felt he had more. It was hard for him to walk away from the game, especially a guy as dedicated as he was."

Adams bounced around between six franchises in his six-year career, after he was drafted in the seventh round by San Francisco in 2010. He served as a reserve defensive back and special teams player in the NFL, following a standout college career at tiny South Carolina State.

Adams also suffered two concussions in his career, reports said.

Despite Adams' quiet demeanor and difficulty settling into retirement, Casterline said he was a dedicated father to his son, and nothing suggested he was capable of murder.

“This is so unlike him,” he said. “He had to not be in his right mind, obviously. All of us who knew Phillip are shaking our heads. He struggled away from the game. I tried to get him to come to Texas. I was going to find him a job, but he wouldn’t leave South Carolina because he had a son. He was a good father. Seeing Phillip shoot two kids, it’s not him. I can’t fathom it. It’s devastating for the victims and the families.”

Kevin Smith, a former Cowboys defensive back who was friends with Adams and trained with him ahead of the 2010 Draft, said Adams had difficulty slowing down after his playing career, and still worked out as if he were in his prime.

“I used to have to tell him, 'you don’t have to do so much,'” Smith said. “I would tell him, 'it’s about preserving your body,' because he’d want to work out three times a day.

“This is just shocking. Recently, our only communication was through Instagram, and he was real short. He didn’t say a whole lot. That was just him. He was such a good kid. I didn’t see mental issues outside of the fact that his pride was a double-edged sword. What drove him, all the hard work, also worked against him.”

Authorities on Thursday said they were still searching for a motive.

“There’s nothing right now that makes sense to any of us," York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson told reporters.

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