Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans is having a pretty good year career year, both on and off the field.
He’ll go into Sunday’s game ranked third in the league in receptions (73), second in the league in receiving yards (1,020) and tied for first in the league in touchdown receptions (10).
He’ll also go into that game against the Chargers as the proud father of a newborn baby girl.
Evans missed practice this past Wednesday to be with his wife Ashli who gave birth to the couple’s second child, Ariah Lynn. Before long we all may be adding the prefix Pro Bowler to Evans name.
Now in his third year out of Texas A&M, Evans seems a virtual lock to make the Pro Bowl for the first time, and it’s largely because he finally seems to be enjoying the game.
Not that Evans has ever disliked playing football. Though he grew up in Texas far more eager to play basketball he found his true niche after joining the football team during his senior year in high school.
Since leaving college, though, Evans has been consistently frustrated by the physical style of the NFL game, the constant bumps and hand-fights that press up against the boundaries of pass interference.
Make no mistake, Evans likes the physical part of the game. He particularly likes the part of his job that allows him to block downfield for a running back breaking a long gainer.
What he’s always disliked, and what has often thrown him off his game, are the border-line legal restrictions pass defenders have put on him, but he finally seems to have adjusted to all that contact.
Evans is taking those bumps and hand fights in stride now and as his touchdown against the Seahawks and their ace hand-fighter Richard Sherman proved last week, fighting through them.
That’s one of the reasons Evans is having his best season ever and the fact he’s made the adjustment to the more physical style here in the NFL has not been lost on his wide receivers coach, Todd Monken.
Monken says Evans is still only “scratching the surface’’ of his talent level and he’s convinced that Evans ability to better control his emotions and most importantly enjoy the game is why his ceiling is so high.
“It just feels like his competitive spirit has turned into excitement and not frustration,’’ Monken said of Evans. “You can see he’s playing a little bit more than (getting) frustrated, which is a good sign. He’s just out there enjoying every day, getting better and being coached and you’re seeing that product on the field.”