Presenting No. 22 in Tennessee’s class of 2007, athlete/cornerback Art Evans.
Nope. This Art Evans:
300 seconds. 257 yards. 21 points.
In 2005, Evangel Christian School in Lakeland, Florida counted a measley 130 students on its rolls and a grand total of 25 players on its football team. No matter. One was junior Art Evans, who served as a cornerback on defense, a receiver on offense, and a punt returner on special teams. Once, with this band of outnumbered Gideonites locked up in a scoreless halftime score against a Midianite-ish rival, Evangel Christian coach Dedrick Dodge sounded the signal and issued a locker room challenge.
Evans answered the call to the tune of 250+ yards and 21 points in the span of five minutes:
They were going in to score and I jumped on a slant and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. They drove down again, but had to punt and I returned that 97 yards. Then we got the ball back and I scored on a 65-yard pass reception. I scored the first three touchdowns and we broke it wide open.
Evangel Christian went on to win the game 54-0. Art Evans went on to catch 62 passes for 1,632 yards and 16 touchdowns as a receiver, intercept 11 passes as a cornerback, and return 10 (!!) punts for touchdowns over the course of the season. Another five punts for touchdowns were called back. Yowza! The team won the 1B State Title that season. Or maybe it was just Art.
Tennessee wasted no time, offering Evans a scholarship on June 1, 2006. Evans didn’t waste much time, either, as he committed to UT on July 3rd (or 4th). He didn’t even need to see the campus first. One look at former Vol Jason Allen’s success and another Tennessee’s 2007 depth chart and he was convinced.
Once committed, he was, well, actually committed. When the coach recruiting him to play for Ohio State (whose name Evans couldn’t even remember right after his official visit there – you gotta love that) pleaded for entry into his house to discuss his commitment to Tennessee, Evans told him not to bother. Not even the subsequent commitment and signing of bluechipper Eric Berry soured his loyalty to the orange.
Although this article from Rivals says that Evans also received offers from Georgia, Alabama, Ole Miss, Michigan State, and Iowa State, I did not include them in the Rocky Top Talk Jars calculation because his Rivals profile page shows that he only turned down offers from Ohio State, Wake Forest, West Virginia, UCF, Duke, Georgia Tech, and South Florida. Had I found another source indicating that he did in fact receive offers from Georgia and Alabama, Evans would have been No. 13 in this year’s class instead of No. 22.
Interestingly, the school that best gave Tennessee a run for its money was not Ohio State, but Duke. Evans’ 3.5 (or 3.7) GPA and ACT score of 19 (or 20) were good enough to get him the Magnolia League offer, and Duke’s academic prestige intrigued Evans:
A Duke offer isn’t something that every player in the country can get. They are the kind of school that can set you up for life with what you do in the classroom, so you have to be a special kind of player to get them to offer. On the field they are getting close to being able to be a very good program. They just need a few more high level players. I think I could go in and make a difference really early on.
Still, in the end, Tennessee’s big stage in the big stadium in the big conference ruled the day, and Evans donned the orange cap.
Stars and stats and stuff
Evans had nine interceptions as a sophomore cornerback in 2004, but it wasn’t until his junior year that he really started getting the attention of big time college football programs. I wrote it above, but it bears repeating: as a junior, Evans caught 62 passes for 1,632 yards and 16 touchdowns as a receiver, intercepted 11 passes as a cornerback, and returned 10 punts for touchdowns over the course of the season. Note: the data for 2005 is a bit inconsistent, but the stats above seem to be the most commonly reported. The punt number looks like it may be eight instead of 10, but that's still pretty good, no?
As a senior, it appears that Evans had about 60 tackles and 14 interceptions as a cornerback, 40 receptions for over 700 yards and nine touchdowns as a receiver, and another eight punt returns for touchdowns. Yowza, the Sequel.
Rivals gives Evans three stars and says that he is the 46th best athlete in the nation. Scout says that he is the 68th best cornerback in the nation and slaps three stars on him. ESPN dubs him the 82nd best wide receiver nationally.
So what is he, a wide receiver, a cornerback, or an unclassifiable? According to Evan’s high school coach Dedrick Dodge, Evans is "natural born corner" and "the best athlete in Polk County," an impressive comment considering that Polk County is home to 5A Lakeland High, the 2005 mythical national champion.
And don’t dismiss the statement as hyperbole from a coach merely trying to help one of his players get a scholarship. Dodge played defensive back with Deion Sanders under Florida State coach Mickey Andrews and went on to not only play in the NFL for seven years but to win two Super Bowl rings with the 49ers and the Broncos. So, he knows what he's saying.
Call Evans a corner with versatility. Indeed, he not only played three positions on the football field, but he also ran track (10.5 seconds in the 100-meter dash and 22 seconds flat in the 200 meters) and played basketball (17 points and 12 rebounds per game). He has size (at 6’1", he’s fairly tall for a corner), speed, quickness, balance, vision, and good hands. He’s elusive and shifty. He’s yes-sir, no-sir and honest. He’s both smart and wise.
And, perhaps most importantly, he’s motivated to beat Tennessee's most-hated rivals. Evans’ best friend is Chris Rogers, who signed up with Alabama last year. Alabama didn't even extend an offer to Evans, and when Evans committed to Tennessee, Alabama coaches apparently told Rogers that he could no longer talk to Evans about playing in college. Evans' home state school Florida didn't offer him a scholarship, either, and Evans feels appropriately snubbed. "I've got a great school in Tennessee," Evans said. "They're rivals with Alabama and Florida. Now I've got to make them pay for not offering me."
You’re singing our song, Mr. Evans.
Ooh! A Vid!But don’t take my word, or Rivals’ or Scout’s or ESPN’s, for that matter. See for yourself:
Rocky Top Talk Mnemonic for Art Evans
Three hundred seconds
Two hundred fifty plus yards
Three thousand yard pace!
Welcome to Tennessee, Art Evans!