GALVESTON, Texas – The best example of what Mike Evans means to the city of Galveston came on March 26, 2021. Not long after winning his first Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 2011 Ball High graduate and legendary Tor received the key to the city. Of course, the key was a small part of a day built around Evans, including a parade to celebrate his accomplishment.
The words “Super Bowl Champion” follow the name Mike Evans forever now, but according to those close to him in the Houston area, Evans has never let success change him.
“He’s the most down-to-earth athlete you’ll ever meet,” said his personal trainer Kerry Bennett, a Katy-based ex-NFL player who counts Evans as his star client among dozens of high-level athletes.
THE BACKYARD FOOTBALL FIELD
Mike Evans lives in Katy, and befitting a football player, has a 40-yard football field in his backyard.
“It’s actually because of (Bennett),” said Evans.
Bennett used to train high school players, whose families owned the house with the field attached. When Bennett brought Evans over to give him a place to work, he and his wife fell in love with the house and the amenities. When the family decided to sell, the Evans’ pounced.
Now, instead of making the short drive to Bennett’s Beast Squad Performance Gym, Evans wanders into his backyard, usually with his small children in tow to watch him work out.
Sometimes, Bennett will bring high school football players, which Evans gladly accommodates.
“He’ll jump into workouts with them,” said Bennett. “Bringing the kids over here, seeing a place like this, it changes lives. It gives the kids something to strive for.”
THE HALL OF FAME POTENTIAL
Evans’ backyard training is, of course, for his upcoming football season. It will be his ninth year in the NFL, and he hopes ninth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Evans is the only player in NFL history to start his career with eight 1,000-yard seasons. Evans is already 6th all-time in the stat, overall, and only trails Tim Brown (9) and Jerry Rice (11) in consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. The most impressive part of that is his age - Evans is just 28, but turns 29 soon and will play the 2022 season at that age.
Brandon Marshall, a wide receiver with comparable size and speed to Evans put up a 1,500-yard season with the New York Jets at the age of 31. Evans won’t play his age 31 season until 2024, and by then could already have a Hall of Fame slot locked up.
Evans has long been considered one of the best receivers in the league, but gets far less attention than flashier players, and is thus considered underrated despite having stats that are on an all-time track.
Evans ranks 85th all-time in receptions (606), 59th all-time in yards (9,301), and 36th all-time in receiving touchdowns (75). If Evans were to have his average season in 2022 (76 catches, 1,162 yards, and 9 touchdowns) he would move to around 60th/44th/20th. Giving him two more seasons of average production through age 31, Evans would move into the range of 30th/25th/10th. Factor in his 4 Pro Bowl Appearances, a 2nd Team All-Pro and a Super Bowl Ring, and a healthy Evans seems to be a Hall of Fame lock.
“I think about (being a Hall of Famer), but I try to stay in the moment as much as possible,” said Evans. “That’s what I’m working for. Why not? I’m trying to be the best in the game right now, and ultimately one of the best to ever play.”
TEXTS FROM TOM BRADY
The day Tom Brady returned from his short-lived retirement Evans got some cryptic messages from his quarterback.
“He sent me a link to the article about his final touchdown ball selling for more than $500,000,” said Evans, who caught Brady’s “final” touchdown pass in the playoffs vs. the Los Angeles Rams, then tossed it into the crowd.
“He told me ‘that’s a lot of tuition money,” said Evans. “I told him ‘in my defense, I didn’t know you were going to retire right then.”
Then Brady sent him another message.
“There’s more touchdowns in our future.”
Several hours later, Brady announced his return.
“I was happy,” said Evans. “I didn’t think he was really coming back, I thought he was playing around and a few hours later he announced it.”
While Evans will get at least one more season with a legendary ex-Patriot, Rob Gronkowski’s retirement stops Evans from playing with another.
“It hurts to lose Gronk, the best tight end ever,” said Mike Evans. “We’re going to miss Gronk.”
“I hope he comes back,” joked Evans. “With Tom and Gronk you never know. I wouldn’t be mad if he came back, I’d be excited. But I think he’s done. He plays the tight end position with max effort, he takes a pretty big beating and I’ve seen his body after some of the games and I understand why (he retired).”
MAN OF THE YEAR
Mike Evans’ 1,000-yard streak isn’t the only impressive streak he’s carrying. Evans has been the Buccaneers’ selection for Walter Payton Man of the Year for three consecutive seasons. Evans and his wife Ashli started the Mike Evans Family Foundation in 2017. The Foundation serves a dual purpose of giving out college scholarships to children and providing support for women who are victims of domestic violence.
On top of that, Evans holds a free camp, gives out various gifts for Christmas and other holidays, and holds a number of fundraising events to help the cause.
“I’ve always dreamed of being a professional athlete and paying it forward in my hometown like Casey Hampton,” said Evans.
Hampton, another Galveston Ball grad, played in the NFL from 2001-2012, winning two Super Bowls with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
“(Galveston) means everything to me, and I’ll never forget it,” said Evans.