This was going to be Rashaan Evans’ season. It’s just the way it was supposed to be.
Countless linebackers at Alabama traveled the same route as Evans: wait behind talented linebackers in front of you for two to three seasons and then it’s suddenly your time to shine. Reggie Ragland did it. Reuben Foster did. This season it was Evans’ time.
Then, in the first game of the season, just 30 minutes into the game, Evans nearly had his year derailed by a freak injury.
While returning a blocked field goal against Florida State at the end of the first half, Evans felt his groin pull, to the point where the muscle separated from the bone.
After the play, Evans remained seated, legs stretched out in front of him, on the turf of Mercedes Benz Stadium. It was in that moment that his father, Alan, knew something was wrong.
‘If he had never picked up that ball he would’ve never missed a game,” Alan Evans said. “I realized he had hurt it when he sat down after he’d been tackled. He was just sitting there and I knew that he had pulled that groin. We kind of knew something was wrong right then. That’s not like him to sit down like that. When he didn’t return to the game we knew that it was a possibility that he had pulled it.”
The injury was painful, and while it didn’t require surgery, it did necessitate an outpatient procedure of a needle to his groin.
“It was a severe groin injury,” Alan Evans said. “The meat was torn from the bone. He had to have some serious outpatient care to fix it. It was something serious for him to go through.
“Oh man, it was a lot of pain. From a scale of 1-10 I’d say a 9.5. Those things are nothing to play with. It’s like somebody just took a shotgun and shot you in between the legs.”
Evans missed the next two games, but made his return against Vanderbilt.
He played arguably his best game of the season against Texas A&M, though Evans left the game frustrated. His frustration found a release on Twitter, explaining to fans both the severity of his injury and the fact that he’s still not 100 percent.
People actually think I’m a 100%. Muscle was ripped from the bone, when was the last time u did the second digit on my jersey standing up? pic.twitter.com/yKZuxaVzcr
— Rashaan Evans (@616evans4) October 9, 2017
“It was not just for me but just any athlete,” Rashaan Evans said this week. “We all go through different injuries and stuff like that. Each athlete has to kind of just hone in on it’s not really about how you feel sometimes, it’s about what needs to be done. I tweeted that out, as well. But that’s just for any guy, man. We’ve just got to overcome the different adversities that we face, and that was one of mine.”
Evans took a risk coming to Alabama.
Not in the way most only think of Evans in the role of a football player. No, as a football player, coming to Alabama wasn’t a huge risk, but it likely would’ve been easier to get on the field in his hometown at Auburn.
Evans eschewed his family’s legacy at Auburn — his father, Alan, played running back at Auburn in the 1980s and his mother, Chenavis, was recognized as an Auburn “distinguished alumni” in 2006 — and enrolled at Alabama.
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Evans’ career at Alabama hasn’t exactly been easy for a prospect once ranked the top outside linebacker in the country.
He’s moved positions multiple times during his career and he waited his turn to get on the field. When Shaun Dion Hamilton was lost for the season during the SEC Championship Game last season, it was Evans who dutifully filled in at inside linebacker for the duration of the season.
Given his speed, one could argue he’s more naturally suited for outside linebacker, but Evans was OK with wherever the coaching staff put him.
He’s settled in now, during his senior season, side by side with Hamilton in the middle of Alabama’s defense. He’s a team leader of the vocal variety.
Choosing Alabama wasn’t the easy route, but it has given the Evans family opportunities it otherwise never would’ve experienced.
“We’re very proud,” Alan Evans said. “During his college career he’s taken us to places we would never, never ever even imagined we could see or go. We’re just very proud of him and the opportunity for us to see him play on the national stage, on national TV. It’s almost like a dream come true. It’s been a great career.
“It’s not been perfect for him, but it’s certainly made a man out of him. For that I thank coach (Nick) Saban and the University of Alabama and all the people up there who have tried to help him over the course of his career to give him an opportunity to be successful.”