ARLINGTON, Texas — The redshirt freshman kept making one big play after another for Texas A&M. He ran fast. He scored lots. He wowed fans.
Yep, Mike Evans had a heck of a year.
While fellow redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel got the national publicity and the Heisman Trophy, Evans had his own successful season. He became the Aggies leading receiver and Manziel's favorite target despite limited experience at the position.
“He is extremely raw,” Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said.
Evans was a standout athlete in high school, but it wasn't on the football field. He was a star basketball player at Galveston (Texas) Ball, averaging 18.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 5.2 assists as a senior. He was so good that Texas offered a scholarship.
But football friends and coaches had long asked him to give the sport a try. At 6-foot-5, they figured he'd be successful.
Before his senior year, he decided to give it a go.
“It ended up being one of the best choices of my life,” Evans said.
He became a second-team all-district receiver, which wasn't earth shattering, but he did enough to impress then-Texas A&M coach Mike Sherman. Evans got a scholarship offer and signed with the Aggies.
Even after redshirting last season, though, Evans had his struggles. Sumlin remembers first seeing him and realizing that Evans had no idea how to run certain routes or how to adjust to some passes.
But it wasn't long before Evans made great strides and Sumlin changed his opinion.
“Hey,” Sumlin thought, “we've got something here.”
Did they ever.
Evans caught 75 passes for 1,022 yards this fall. His receptions are second-most in a season in school history while his yards are third-most. He has a change to break both school records against Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl.
“I feel like whenever we need to go to a guy and whenever we need to make a play, Mike Evans is the guy you go to because he's so big,” Manziel said. “He's so physical, and he does a great job at getting open.”
What's more, Evans played hurt all season, and the last month-plus of the season, a nagging leg injury limited him to only practice on Thursdays.
But he didn't miss a Saturday.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Evans said. “It held me back some, but I played through it.”
Sumlin said, “For a freshman to do that and perform the way he performed in games ... shows a lot.”