Spencer Adkins always knew he was going to get another shot at his NFL dream.
After the Atlanta Falcons cut the linebacker in August after three years with the team, Adkins had to bide his time. The former Naples High star stayed in Atlanta, followed his normal workout regimen while his agent explored other NFL offers.
His patience paid off, and now Adkins could soon be playing for a Super Bowl champion.
Adkins signed a reserve-futures contract with the Baltimore Ravens in early January. Though he can't join the team until its offseason program begins, Adkins could be joining the defending champs if the Ravens beat the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVII.
"I was in the NFL; I know what it takes to play in the NFL," the 25-year-old said. "I know I belong there. I was just waiting for my next opportunity. I never questioned my ability to play the game."
Adkins said he's worked hard to stay in peak physical condition the past four months. He said he worked out for seven NFL teams, which he declined to name. Adkins was set to work out for another when the Ravens called and said they wanted to sign him.
Naples coach Bill Kramer had no doubt Adkins would get a second chance in the NFL, and he knew his former player would be ready.
"He never stops training," Kramer said. "He's been working toward another team since Day 1."
When Adkins went to Baltimore to meet with Ravens coaches and officials, the 2005 grad who played at the University of Miami was reunited with several former Hurricanes teammates. Running back Damien Berry and receiver Tommy Streeter also played at Miami. And defensive lineman Terrence Cody is a graduate of Riverdale High School in Fort Myers.
Adkins said he knows Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who is 12 years older, from several events at Miami. Adkins is disappointed he won't get to play alongside Lewis, who is retiring after the Super Bowl, but he wishes the future Hall of Famer well.
"He played the game at a high level for a long time," Adkins said. "I guess he wants to go out on top."
Adkins said he was surprised when he was released by the Falcons on Aug. 30. After being drafted in the sixth round in 2009, the 5-foot-11, 242-pounder played in 24 games for Atlanta.
The only start of Adkins' career came in last season's playoff loss to the Giants thanks to injuries. The Falcons were again thin at linebacker in training camp because of injuries, which is why Adkins was blindsided by being cut.
"A lot of people were surprised," Kramer said. "(The NFL) is a funny business. Spencer can only control what he can control. He just controlled his effort and preparation."
Adkins was particularly disappointed because he knew the Falcons were primed for a big season. Atlanta went 13-3 in the regular season, and was the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs. The Falcons lost 28-24 to the 49ers in the conference championship.
"With that offense and their new defense, I knew they would be something special," Adkins said.
Because of his college connections in Baltimore, Adkins was pulling for the Ravens already. Now that he has a chance to join the potential Super Bowl champs, he'll be cheering even louder come Sunday.
Adkins stopped short of making a prediction on the game, but he said it should be a close contest.
"I'm expecting it to be a battle," Adkins said. "The Harbaugh brothers, they're both great coaches. The teams are kind of built alike — real physical defenses with explosive offenses. They're matched up well, so it should be a good competition."