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July 8, 2005
The real Jamaal Evans
Jamaal Evans earned a bad rap.Somewhere along the way, Irving, Texas, all-purpose running back
Whether it's not being ranked by Rivals.com as the top running back in Texas or rumors that he's not going to qualify and has problems off the field, Evans has heard them all. He can't control the rankings part of the equation, but what he can manage is everything else in his life.
He's doing that quite well and dispelling the misconceptions like he bounces off would-be tacklers.
"I'm already fully qualified," Evans said. "I'm taking English 4, so I can graduate in December. That will mean all I have to take is government and economics as requirements in that first semester. I can take those, graduate and then be on the way to whatever college I pick.
"I'm also making sure that I take care of what's most important in my life. To me, that's playing football, going to school and preparing for my future. I don't want to mess anything up that could hurt me."
Evans' future is bright, no doubt.
He also doesn't have to look too far for what not to do and how mistakes can ruin that bright future.
Back in 1999, Tyson Thompson of Irving High was one of the most highly-coveted running backs in the nation. He was heavily recruited by everybody in the nation, but Thompson didn't have his head screwed on straight back then, didn't take care of academics and was charged with misdemeanor theft stemming from his arrest on suspicion of stealing from the Irving High weight room.
Thompson eventually made it to Garden City C.C. and then to San Jose State and is trying to latch on with the Cowboys, but people can't help but think what might have been if he'd stayed focused on the important things.
Evans said he won't fall into that trap.
"I've had people doubting me the whole time," Evans said. "So I use that as motivation both off the field and on the field. I had a lot of people trying to come at me off the field, and I've just had to focus on what's most important.
"Everybody tells me I'm too small, and I've heard that a lot. I didn't make the Rivals100, and people say that I'm not as good as Emmanuel Moody. I remind people to go look at the tape when we beat them this year."
That tape is rather impressive. In that game against Moody, the top ranked back in Texas, Evans racked up 332 yards and six touchdowns on 32 carries. Moody had 100 yards in that game on 19 carries.
"I think we're both very good, don't get me wrong," Evans said. "Moody and I are both good in our own special way. I'm not going to say he's better, and I'm not going to say that I'm better. I just go out there and let my playing do my talking, and when we played last year against him head-to-head, that spoke for itself."
With Evans graduating early in December and enrolling in January, that has pushed up his timetable for recruiting quite a bit. However, he does say he wants to have some fun with the process and take some official visits.
"It's really cut my time short, but I'm still going to take my time," Evans said. "I thinking Oklahoma State really stands out. North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Minnesota do too."
Evan said Oklahoma State, which is a serious candidate to land another highly-touted Texan this weekend with Michael Goodson, will still be a candidate even if the Rivals100 member picks the Cowboys over A&M and USC.
"Coach (Todd) Bradford, the linebacker coach, is great," Evans said. "We just started talking to each other, and I have a good feeling for him. He texts me all the time, and we have a really good relationship."
North Carolina, he said, is a good situation for him because of playing time.
"I like them," he said. "I get three hand-written letters a day from their coaches. They're telling me all the same thing - that I can come in and be a big-time player for them from day one. They said Chad Scott is gone, and they have a big hole to fill at the running back spot. They think I'm that guy."
Minnesota (Kerry Cooks) and Georgia Tech also got positive comments from Evans, and he mentioned Iowa State as a team that he could take a serious look at if things continue to blossom with the assistant coaches up there.
But all of that doesn't matter if he doesn't remain focused on what it takes to make it to the next level, Evans said.
"I can't stop working hard at getting better in life, in the class room and on the field," he said. "I'm taking care of the school stuff by taking classes this summer. And the other stuff is going just fine. I'm working out every day at trying to improve my vision. I'm watching a lot of film and working on a lot of cutting drills.
"I've got to get better. That's just the type of guy that I am now."