Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Evers at home at tight end

Richard Anderson photo
Sheridan native Joe Evers is one of several talented tight ends on the Cowboy roster.

Editors note: This story was first published during spring football on the previous version of Wyoming

By Richard Anderson

Most young football players dream of being the quarterback. As it turned out, Joe Evers was a quarterback who dreamed of being a tight end.

Evers is getting his wish as a sophomore tight end for the Wyoming Cowboys and will go into fall camp as one of four talented players in that position.

A quarterback at Sheridan High School, Evers was a second-team all-state selection his senior season. But admittedly not possessing a great amount of talent at quarterback, Evers wanted to play Division I football and he wanted to play for the Cowboys.

Some smaller schools were willing to take a chance on Evers at quarterback, but at 6-foot-5, he had the frame to put on added weight. Suddenly, tight end became a viable option.

“I have to be honest, I really didn’t have a set plan when I came out of high school because a lot of teams recruited me as just an athlete because I was big, but I only weighed 205 pounds coming out,” Evers said. “A lot of teams didn’t know where to put me, so it was wide open. I wanted to play tight end and they (UW) mentioned it.”

Deciding to play tight end was the first step. The next step was getting the opportunity. Evers got that chance when UW offered him a grayshirt in February of 2005. He now had the option of sitting out a semester and then reporting for spring ball with the idea of earning a scholarship for 2006.

Now at 250 pounds, Evers is following the script to a T.

“It has kind of been a long road, but I feel like it is starting to click; I’m really having fun this spring ball,” he said.

Of course, most quarterbacks in high school don’t get the chance or want the opportunity to block. Tight ends have to block. That was an adjustment in itself for Evers.

“I never had to block … ever; ever since I was growing up,” Evers said. “That was a big step. I kind of felt like I was in over my head for a while. This new offense that Coach (Bob) Cole has put in, I think it really clicks well and it just really comes easily, compared to the past.”

Wyoming assistant coach Casey Glenn said Evers has really progressed not only as an athlete, but as a blocker.

“For a guy who has never blocked, even in high school, obviously he has come a long way in a short time,” Glenn said. “A grayshirt obviously has helped him. He essentially has had an extra redshirt year and that really has helped in positions where you are blocking. He’s a different athlete than he was in high school. His best football is ahead of him.”

Looking back, Evers said he needed every bit of his grayshirt and redshirt seasons to get where he is today. He said that grayshirt was a blessing, not only physically, but socially and academically.

What really helped him was enrolling in school in the fall of 2005, something he wasn’t required to do. He said he was able to get into the dorms and “be around the guys.”

“When I came into spring ball, I was over my head. Everybody else had the fall and the plays are just coming at you,“ he said. “I hadn’t blocked before. It is so much faster than high school. The grayshirt enables me to be here for 5½ years on the education side of it.

That first spring was pretty rough at times, he said

“You’re driving home from practice after a bad day and you start second-guessing yourself,” Evers said. “I’m pretty close with my teammates and they have been really good. If somebody has a bad day or is down, everybody is good about getting them back up.”

Academically, the first semester also taught him how to be a college student.

“The first semester was my lowest GPA, but you are away from your folks and you are kind of living your dream,” Evers said. “But I’m really glad that I came down when I did. I got the hang of how college goes. I would come and watch practices, so I kind of knew how practice went. I felt like I had a good first step in with the guys, which was important."

Physically, Evers has used the past two years to get up to his 250-pound frame. That too, wasn’t easy. He’d gain 10-15 pounds each year, but he also discovered the difference between good weight gain and bad weight gain.

“When I grayshirted, I was probably a little lax on my cardio,” Evers said. “I hit the weights pretty hard. I got up to 220-225 when I reported to spring ball. The first thing I did was go through winter conditioning and I think I lost 10 pounds. It wasn’t good weight.”

Evers would like to try to get between 250 and 260 pounds, as long as he doesn’t hurt his speed.
“The coaches have talked about that. It’s all about gaining good weight,” he said.

Tight ends coach Casey Glenn said that athletically, to go from a player who was receiving the snap, to being a player who has his hands on the ground, makes Evers a special athlete.

“There are not a lot of guys who have the toughness as a quarterback to be able to be a successful, nasty tight end who can block these defensive ends and linebackers that we have here,” Glenn said.

Last season, Evers got on the field and earned a letter, even though he didn’t catch a ball, playing behind graduated senior Wade Betschart and current tight ends Chris Sundberg and Jesson Salyards. Evers did play on special teams, and that was enough for him to know that he made the right decision.

“It’s all worth it,” he said. “I’ve been here a little longer and it has taken me a little longer to get out on the field. But when I stepped out on the field against Virginia, I had that feeling. When you look up into the stands full of Brown and Gold, that’s what it is all about. I felt like it was all worth it. I’m really glad I made the decision to come to Wyoming.”

It’s been a good spring for Evers, as he has shown marked improvement in his blocking game as well as good hands catching the football in heavy traffic.

“I feel like it is all starting to come together for me now, the whole package,” Evers said. “Tight ends have to know all of the running plays, all of the passing plays and all of the variations on both.”

With the addition of junior college transfer Orlando Arnold and Sundberg’s return from injury this fall, the Cowboys will be four deep in the tight end position. Evers said that doesn’t bother him; he said he’ll play his best and let that speak for itself.

“If anything, it will help the team out to have four strong tight ends,” he said. “Coach Cole likes to utilize the tight ends quite a bit. When somebody gets gassed, here comes another. You don’t want the talent level to drop off. I think four pretty strong guys position-wise, that is going to help us out.”

“I just try to go out to every practice and try to get better every day. I can’t get too caught up in the depth chart thing. Obviously, you want to compete and that is what it is all about, competing. It makes the guy ahead of you better, also.”

With the added emphasis on the tight end in this new offense, Casey Glenn said all four players should fit in well.

“I think looking at the guys, if we can get Chris Sundberg healthy and back in the mix, and have the junior college guy come in and help us, obviously we’re very deep there,” Glenn said. “There should be room for all of them.”

The glamour position in football has always been at quarterback. Does Evers wonder if he could still make a certain throw or run a certain play?

Not even a little.

“We throw the ball to each other when we warm up and I can tell that I haven’t thrown the ball since high school. My shoulders are stiff,” he said with a smile. “I like tight end, I’m glad I’m here.”

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