Human highlight reel
Evans employs experience of record-breaking first season to lead in 2013
Published: Thursday, September 12, 2013
Updated: Thursday, September 12, 2013 23:09
Texas A&M leading wide receiver Mike Evans was nearly a Longhorn. While that makes most Aggies cringe, Evans wouldn’t have been showcasing his talents on a burnt orange emblazoned football field, but a basketball court instead.
Growing up, Evans played both sports but decided to stick solely with basketball once he reached high school. The 6-foot-5 receiver had the football coaches at Galveston Ball High School begging since he was a freshman.
His senior year he finally gave in. The result was a 25-catch season for 648 yards and seven touchdowns. His play however did not result in many big-time college football offers, except at Texas A&M.
As a red-shirt freshman receiver for the Aggies, Evans caught a team-high 82 catches for 1,105 yards — both freshman records.
“Mike Evans has moved past [scratching the surface],” said head coach Kevin Sumlin. “He’s a playmaker, he’s a big, physical guy that plays as hard without the ball as he does when his number is called.”
Evans’ playmaking ability without the ball developed into a favorite among the coaches, providing blocks and getting open for quarterback Johnny Manziel’s many scrambling plays.
Evans and Manziel teamed up for one of the most lethal quarterback-receiver combos in all of college football. Their chemistry from a year ago has translated into the 2013 season already.
“Mike [Evans] is really getting better, he’s a great player,” Manziel said. “He’s a guy who’s going to play football for a long, long time. Our chemistry is really good and it took us a while to get in tune throughout [fall] camp, but once we got it rolling [we were good].”
Manziel’s comments came after one of Evans’ best career performances against Sam Houston State, during which he caught seven passes for a career-high 155-yards.
“He’s really an example for not just the receiving corps, because we’ve got a bunch of young guys who watch him without the ball and block, but also the whole football team and the unselfishness he plays with,” Sumlin said.
Evans has been displaying his experience on and off the field, quickly becoming one of the team’s leaders despite being just a sophomore.
“[Evans] isn’t a real big talker guy, he does it by example,” receivers coach David Beaty said. “He had a great season last year, but he probably outworks everyone in that room. That’s leadership in itself.”
For Evans, the leadership role came after being tutored by some of the most respected senior leaders on the 2012 team. He is now using that experience to mentor a wide receiver group that has six true freshmen.
“I had great leadership at the wide receiver position with [Ryan] Swope, Kendrick McNeal and Uzoma [Nwachukwu],” Evans said. “They taught me and they motivated me to be a leader and that’s what I’m going to do is lead the young guys.”
Evans lined up as an outside receiver last season, leading to big numbers, but this spring A&M coaches shocked some fans by giving him looks as an inside receiver. The adjustment was simple: use Evans’ size to create mismatches against the best teams.
“It allows us to get matchups,” Beaty said. “We don’t have to keep him in one spot, we can move him around. He’s a smart kid, he knows every position on the field so from that standpoint the reps we were able to give him in the spring were able to help him.”
As the Aggies prepare to take on No. 1 Alabama at Kyle Field on Saturday, Evans said each upcoming game is “our biggest game.”
When the A&M offense lines up near the endzone Saturday, it will be Evans on the receiving end of another kind of ally-oop pass. One he may have never seen coming years ago.
“We need more production from him in the redzone,” Beaty said. “He should be a human redzone highlight film himself. We should be able to throw it up to that big sucker and him come down with it.”