Growing up in San Diego, California, Michael Adkins II always wanted to be a businessman. He sold pistachios for a dime to classmates in elementary school and an individual Starburst for a quarter in middle school, turning a profit on both.
"I was in elementary school and they had a vending machine," he said. "I just figured I could sell these individually and make money off the situation."
A keen business sense and a love of sports defined Adkins' high school days. With a 4.490 GPA, he was named the San Diego area Student-Athlete of the Year in 2013 (selected by The Mighty 1090 AM radio) based on academic and athletic achievements. He was on the honor roll every quarter, taking AP and Honors classes as a prep. His outstanding GPA earned him offers to attend school and play football at Harvard, Yale and the Air Force Academy. Adkins chose CU Boulder, where he is a senior running back.
"You get to play in the Pac-12," he said. "It was the balance that led me to choose CU. Other schools had either good academics or good football; here you play at a high level of football and have that great education."
Talk to student-athletes and they will tell you that managing 20 hours a week of athletic-related activities on top of schoolwork is a grind. Trying to find the "balance" is difficult—something is always sacrificed.
But Adkins isn’t complaining about managing his time-commitments—he says it comes down to work ethic.
"From a young age, school and football have been a huge part of my life and something that I’ve stayed true to as I’ve grown up," said Adkins, a two-time Pac-12 All-Academic team member. "I’m a high achiever, and I want to be the best at everything, so just bringing it to the classroom and bringing it to the field is just what keeps driving me to keep it fun."
A three-sport athlete in high school (he played basketball as a freshman and lettered three times in track), he flourished on the football field. In his prep career, he rushed for 3,115 yards and 40 touchdowns, despite being a full-time starter just his senior season, when he rushed 216 times for 1,770 yards and 24 touchdowns. During his senior year, he earned PrepStar All-West Region honors at running back.
His success on the field in high school led Adkins to Boulder to play for the Buffaloes. Adkins, who began playing for the Buffs as a true freshman in 2013, entered a program that was in a rebuilding phase.
Along with the heavy demands of playing for a Division I football program, Adkins still had the goal of continuing his studies to become the CEO of a company one day. That led to his decision to major in business finance with a minor in leadership studies.
As he became engulfed in the world of college athletics, he realized that the idea of mixing business with sports was a possibility.
"Growing up, my aspirations were to become a CEO," he said. "But once I got to CU, learning how the business works in athletics, it intrigued me and it gave me an insight into what an athletic director does, and it seems similar to what a CEO does in business."
While proving he was a contributor as running back on the field, Adkins continued to push himself in the classroom.
As a sophomore, he earned first-team All-Academic All-Colorado honors from the state’s chapter of the National Football Foundation (he was an honorable mention as a junior). He was selected to the first-team Pac-12 All-Academic team as a junior (second-team as a sophomore).
Just as everything was looking up, Adkins suffered a hamstring injury during the game against Colorado State in 2015, which caused him to miss the last 10 games of the season.
"Falling back on my faith really got me through that time," he said, "and it really got me through a lot of my injuries—that’s what has pushed me through."
After recovering from the hamstring injury, Adkins said was cleared to participate in spring practices in 2016. He entered this season ranked 42nd on CU’s all-time rushing list (1,145 yards) tied for 68th in scoring (78 points) and 106th in receptions (25).
Adkins scored his first rushing touchdown of this season in week five during the Buffs' 47-6 win over Oregon State University, when he rushed seven times for 31 yards.
"We’re doing great," he said. "Just trying to keep moving forward and keep going towards our goal for the season."
Success on the field and helping his team progress toward the ultimate goal, a Pac-12 championship, just comes naturally for Adkins.
"It’s important to place a large emphasis on both 'student' and 'athlete' because your education is what’s going to last you a lifetime," he said.
This summer, while training for the upcoming season, Adkins served an internship with the financial services company Robert W. Baird & Co.
At home, he’s active with the youth in his community, volunteering with his old Pop Warner league, and coaching and organizing in several sports. During his volunteer time he advises young people who aspire to be student-athletes to find a balance between sport and school.
"Not being single-minded, thinking just school or just sports, is tough," he said. "You’re at college for sports, but you want to excel at school, as well. Understanding that they both put you in a better position for the future is important."
As Adkins prepares for the game this weekend against Arizona State, he will continue to work hard in the classroom. He hopes to play in the NFL, as long as he maintains his health and is consistent with his playing time as the season continues through conference games.
"I have aspirations for the NFL if that opportunity presents itself," he said. "But I have potentially another year and a half here, so we’ll see what happens."