Tuesday November 6, 2012Josh Evans: Out of the Shadows
By Andrew Piper, UF Communications
Josh Evans was here in 2009 as a freshman when the University of Florida football team started the season 12-0 and advanced to the SEC Championship Game and won the Sugar Bowl, he was here during a head coaching change in the midst of two seasons that finished with the Gators avoiding their first losing season since 1979 and he is still in Gainesville now with the Orange and Blue having started its 2012 season with a 7-1 mark.
When he began his collegiate career, Evans was merely a name on Florida’s defensive depth chart that was headlined by future NFL standouts Joe Haden, Brandon Spikes and Major Wright. Now, as his final season winds down, his name is one that opposing offenses hear often when they are preparing to face the Gators.
“The high was coming in with a great team and those guys being here and being comfortable and fitting into that type of organization,” Evans said. “Our low was not being able to stay consistent and that kind of hurt us over the years. Now, I think we are on a road to success.”
During some of the tough times that Evans and his Gator teammates have faced during the last three seasons, one thing that didn’t change was his determination. His head was always in his playbook and his heart was still deep in the game he loved so much.
Part of what comes with being a senior is an increase in responsibility and leadership, which was evident during the Gators’ season opener, when Evans served as one of the team’s captains against Bowling Green. He recognizes the meaning of that being linked to his role on this team.
“It feels good being a role model to these young guys and showing them the way to go, what to do and what not to do,” Evans said leading up to the Gators’ 44-11 victory over No. 9 South Carolina. “That is the biggest thing, being a leader and showing these guys little things to improve upon because I was once in their shoes.”
Head coach Will Muschamp described how Evans “overran a running back and missed a tackle in the hole” in a game earlier this season.
Muschamp doesn’t think about how Evans is leading the team in tackles or how he is in the midst of his best season, but instead relates one missed tackle. That constant demand for flawless play on defense has become commonplace around the Florida football program since Muschamp took over, as that is what it will take to be competitive in the rugged SEC on a consistent basis.
Second-year Gator defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has brought a fire to the Florida defense that has not been evident in Gainesville since Charlie Strong was the defensive coordinator and the roster was littered with NFL-caliber talent.
“He is a great coach and I think him having experience as a player, a coach and coaching in the NFL has improved my game a lot,” Evans said when discussing Quinn. “His knowledge of the game is amazing, it’s an honor to play for him and it’s been great for me.”
One of the first things Muschamp has noted during his postgame press conferences following Gator victories this season is how Quinn’s defense anchors the team and how this group of players has been doing the things they talk about on a daily basis on all sides of the ball to win games.
After having fought through injuries and trying to stay healthy, Evans was humbled by his struggles as his appreciation for football continued to grow. He now cherishes every tackle he makes and plays his heart out every time he steps onto the field, regardless of the circumstances.
Landmark moments for Evans this season include being a captain for the Gators’ season opener, along with being the first person to celebrate with Muschamp moments on the sideline after the Gators took down then-No.4 LSU. The most valued thing about those moments is that both came in The Swamp.
“It has been tough over the last couple years, but I think we have been doing pretty well this year,” Evans commented about playing at home. “That is always a major thing for this team, to win in The Swamp. To keep our fans happy, this team happy, and our coaching staff happy – that is the biggest thing.”
Evans still has several things left to accomplish before his career as a Gator comes to a close, but they aren’t trophy-case related. The final item to cross off of his list is to have a couple more interceptions before the season is done. If he is able to accomplish that as a result of his improvement in coverage, the indirect result could have a positive effect on the trophy cases that sit in the Heavener Football Complex.
“Of course, I want to see my name on one of the charts as a Gator great, a role model and a leader,” Evans reflected. “Coming in, that is what I saw [as a freshman in 2009]. I had a lot of guys ahead of me and they played that role. With me being in my senior year, hopefully I can lead with those expectations and that role as well.”
With plenty of experiences that have made Evans stronger as a person and as a football player, he still has a few more games to show what he has learned and how he has grown to his teammates, coaches, and Gator fans who are watching.