With the insane amounts of coverage players get leading up to the draft, it’s hard to imagine any stone being unturned when it comes to finding background information on high-profile prospects. However, even with all the different media outlets and content networks, the focus often shifts to who someone is as a player on the field rather than as a person in the real world. We all know about Mike Evans’ beastly size and that he was Johnny Manziel’s favorite target at Texas A&M, but here’s ten things you didn’t know about Mike Evans the man.
10. He idolized Vincent Jackson in high school
One of the most uncanny moments for any rookie must be playing alongside, or against, players that you studied when you were younger. Getting to work side-by-side with one of your football heroes may not be rare in and of itself, however, you don’t often see a rookie drafted to a team that not only has one of his idols on the roster, but where that established player is the one the rookie most often got compared to entering the draft. This is the case with Evans and Vincent Jackson. Most experts said Evans was the next Vincent Jackson, and now Evans gets the chance to learn from Jackson directly how best to use his size and athleticism.
9. His mother was only 14 when Evans was born
As this list continues, you’ll see Evans had to overcome a variety of obstacles getting to the NFL. He certainly gets much of his resiliency and determination from his mother. Even though she had Evans at the young age of 14, she didn’t let that stop her from graduating high school, the same one Evans would eventually graduate from. He is never shy to credit her for her influence, having been quoted saying, “I go to school and play ball, and I do it all for her.”
8. Batman is his favorite superhero
Mike Evans may not have been the draft pick all Bucs fans wanted, but he’s the wide receiver they need right now. It makes sense that the dark knight would be Evans’ favorite caped crusader. Both have been overshadowed unfairly, Evans with Manziel and Bruce Wayne with Superman. Yet, both have shown that they are dangerous weapons and powerful allies. While he may play Robin to Vincent Jackson’s Batman starting out in the league, he will eventually grow to a hero in his own right.
7. His father was murdered when he was nine
Before draft day, the single most defining moment in Mike Evans’ life was losing his father in 2002. It was Evans’ first season playing football, and while he was just getting into the sport, he credits that time as giving him a sharper competitive edge. When many could have rightly taken their time to grieve, Evans used it as fuel and became more focused. No matter what adversity may come his way in training camp and his rookie year, he has the resolve to overcome it.
6. He gave up football and played basketball instead till his senior year
Wanting to throw all of himself into a sport, Evans thought his abilities translated better to the basketball court. Competing in high school against future standout Marcus Smart, he wanted to focus in and get as good as possible. However, the siren song of the football field was too difficult to ignore, so while he was averaging 18.3 point and 8.4 rebounds a game on the court, he still wanted to give football another shot. Now a common story in the NFL, his abilities on the hardwood translated well to jump balls and pick plays as a receiver.
5. The only other school to recruit him for football was Tulane
If Evans were to just look plainly at how schools viewed him, he may have chosen to pursue basketball instead. After all, the Texas Longhorns recruited him heavily for basketball, and Wichita State, Auburn, and Texas Tech were allegedly in the mix as well. But when Texas A&M came calling, Mike Evans listened to his gut and chose the gridiron. The only other team interested in his services was Tulane, whose most illustrious NFL alumni was career back up Bubby Brister.
4. He worked with James Lofton leading up to the draft
At only 20 years old and with less hours clocked on a football field in comparison to many of his colleagues, Evans knew he had to squeeze in as much preparation and training as possible as he makes the leap to the NFL. Enlisting the services of hall of fame receiver James Lofton was part of that equation. Evans says the two focused on getting more separation. Evans is dangerous just in his ability to jump over guys and grab the ball, he’ll become that much more of a threat if he can consistently add yards after the catch.
3. Evans plans to use his first NFL paycheck to buy his mom a car
Given her influence on his life, it isn’t surprising that Evans would want to do something for his mom. Some players buy themselves houses or cars with their first NFL check, Evans is going to buy his mother a car. After losing their house and many possessions in Hurricane Ike, that car will mean more than it does to many new NFL moms, so while it isn’t an uncommon story, it’s another piece of evidence proving Evans’ character.
2. He survived a near-fatal car crash in college
You may have heard about Texas A&M losing players to fatal car accidents in 2011 and 2012, and sadly Evans almost became a third in the summer of 2013. He rolled his 2004 Jeep Cherokee and was ejected from the vehicle, not wearing a seatbelt at the time. He initially thought he may have broken his neck, but thankfully he walked away with just stiffness. Now, he wears a seatbelt all the time, and calls it a bonehead mistake he won’t make again.
1. Evans needed three IVs to get through his best college game
You saw the highlights on Sportscenter, it was one of the biggest match ups of last season: Alabama vs. Texas A&M. While A&M would lost the game 49-42, Evans’ 279 yards on seven catches broke a school record. What fans may not have realized is Evans needed an IV before the game, at halftime, and as soon as it ended to fight off cramps. This moment could have been a big factor in Lovie Smith’s decision to draft Evans. To succeed in the NFL, you need to be able to push past pain and other distractions and still perform. Evans not only did that, he performed at his absolute best when he could have fallen off. Buccaneers fans hope to see a similar resolve with Evans in his career. If history can provide any proof, he’ll show that and much, much more.