NORMAN — Tay Evans knew where he wanted to play.
He just didn’t always know what sport he wanted to play once he got to the University of Oklahoma.
Evans’ father, Bobby Joe, was a basketball player for the Sooners in the mid-90s, and basketball was Tay’s sport of choice after a frustrating sophomore year of football caused him to walk away from the sport.
Two years later, though, Tay is enrolled at OU, where he could earn quick playing time at linebacker.
The Sooners were already thin at inside linebacker going into spring football and with Frank Shannon’s status up in the air after a sexual misconduct allegation, Tay could quickly be the backup to sophomore Jordan Evans at middle linebacker.
That could’ve never happened without Allen (Texas) defensive coordinator Corey Crain.
When Tay decided he wanted to give up football, his father tried to talk him into giving the sport another chance.
“Just play both until you figure out which one you’re better at,” Bobby Joe told his son.
But Tay wasn’t listening.
Crain wasn’t letting it go though.
Crain had seen plenty of players go from not playing varsity as sophomores to becoming Division I signees a couple of years later. He thought that could be Tay’s path.
For a month, Crain all but stalked Tay in the mornings.
Tay would be shooting the basketball in Allen’s gym, and Crain would be waiting for him when he finished.
“I’d just stand outside the gym when he was done and I’d just talk to him about my thoughts about him as a football player — as a dual-sport player,” Crain said.
After a month of those conversations with Crain and head coach Tom Westerberg, Tay gave in.
“Fine, I’ll just play football,” Evans said. “Then I went to spring ball and fell in love with the game.
“It’s a crazy story.”
Westerberg and Crain made sure not to pressure Tay though.
“There’s zero pressure,” Westerberg told him. “All we want you to do is come try and see what it’s like as a varsity football player. If you don’t like it, it’s no harm, no foul.”
It didn’t take long for Tay to fit right in and figure out that football could be his future.
“I think it was a relief to know that he could come and he’s not going to disappoint anybody whatever decision that he made,” Cain said. “So once he came and tried, he discovered real fast that he was going to have fun and then the more he played, he discovered how good he was.”
As Tay got stronger playing football, basketball became a bit more frustrating.
“He was playing defense and a lot of the guys couldn’t get around him and they would bump into him but he wasn’t moving,” Bobby Joe said. “They were calling fouls on him. He played that one weekend and then he realized, ‘Hey Dad, I can’t play this sport any more. It’s too soft now. They’re calling fouls on me all the time and I’m not touching the dudes.’”
Tay wanted to play college football with his younger brother Bobby.
The Sooners didn’t have to do too much selling once they made offers to the two brothers.
Last summer, in the span of a little more than a week, Tay and Bobby committed to the Sooners.
“The fact that OU offered us, that was just a given,” Tay said. “We were already going to OU.”
Bobby is a 2015 offensive line commitment.
Just months after the badgering from Cain helped bring him back to football, Tay helped Allen win a state title.
The next day, Tay sent Cain a text.
“Thank you for believing in me,” it said.
“I’ll be honest with you, it brought me to tears man,” Cain said. “It dang melted me. But that’s what this profession’s all about. It’s about those little things like that.”