Husker Look Back: Small School, Big Recruit

Big Red Report's Shane Gilster takes a look back at the recruitment of DeAngelo Evans.

DeAngelo Evans was one of the most highly recruited high school football players in 1995. The 5-foot-9, 210- pound running back from Wichita (Collegiate), Kansas, became the state's career leading rusher in high school with 8,473 yards.

As a senior, Evans was the No. 1 player in the Midlands and SuperPrep's No. 5 running back overall. He was fast and powerful; running a 4.35 in the 40-yard dash, bench pressing 355 pounds, squatting 570 pounds and possessing a 40-inch vertical jump.

Colleges started taking notice of Evans after his freshman year in high school. He rushed for 1,800 yards that year and began getting a lot of early media attention as a starting running back at a school that was mainly known for academics and fine arts.

Wichita Collegiate is in Class 3A, while the largest class in Kansas is 6A. "I didn't play against a lot of top flight players. Most of the kids that I played with had 1300 or 1400 SAT scores so they were more of the MIT and Stanford type," Evans said.

"Turner Gill (NU assistant coach) came by the school and developed a great relationship with my high school coach and me. Coach Gill was really instrumental in the recruiting process for me," Evans said.

Eventually Evans had so many schools courting him, he had to cut his list down during his junior year.

"I narrowed it down to seven schools: Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska, Penn State, Miami, USC and Notre Dame," Evans stated. "I really wasn't interested in all the attention; I just wanted to go somewhere where I could fit in and have a good time playing college football."

Evans wanted the recruiting process over quickly. He really didn't want to experience the process the way a lot of these top recruits are today.

"I didn't have the long drawn-out process in choosing a school. I took unofficial visits to Notre Dame, Penn State, Kansas State, Kansas and Nebraska, and one official visit to Nebraska. I also attended summer camps at Notre Dame, Penn State and Nebraska," he said.

Before his senior year, Evans committed in July to Notre Dame. The Irish was a team he grew up watching and admiring.

"The reason I chose them over Nebraska was they (NU) signed Ahman Green the year before and I didn't know if Lawrence Phillips would be coming back or leaving for the NFL. I didn't want to go to a place where I would sit back and wait for a couple of years until I could carry the football," Evans explained.

Evans had a great freshman season before injuries slowed him down (Getty Images)

"Notre Dame guaranteed that I was going to play as a true freshman. They had a great tradition at that position with a great reputation academically. My high school was a very good academic school so Notre Dame seemed like a natural fit."

But Evans's parents still really liked Nebraska and convinced their son to give them another look. So they took an unofficial visit to NU's first home game against Arizona State in 1995. After the game they sat down with Gill, Tom Osborne and Frank Solich of the Husker coaching staff.

"I told the coaches I didn't want to go somewhere where I wasn't going to play right away," Evans said. "They told me if that was the only thing that was stopping me from coming there, then they would promise that I would play my freshman year. So if I was able to give them a commitment than I was definitely going to get a chance. They also said that I would be the only running back in this recruiting class."

One month after the visit to Nebraska, Evans decided to switch his commitment from Notre Dame to Nebraska. "Lou Holtz was pretty upset that I decommited," Evans said. "But Nebraska was always ranked towards the top in the mid-90s. This was when Nebraska was really getting in on a lot of nationally ranked kids. I was one of those recruiting pieces at the running back position," Evans said.

At Nebraska, he ran for 776 yards and 14 touchdowns as a freshman in 1996, including 130 yards on 32 carries with three touchdowns against Texas in the Big 12 Championship game. Injuries then began to plague him as he went on to rush for only 292 yards and four touchdowns over the next two seasons before he ended up transferring to Emporia State, a Division II school in Kansas.

"I made a great decision with Nebraska and don't regret going there because I still think it was the best choice for me. The only thing I would change is the recruiting process. I should have gone on more official visits and listened to more schools. I would have enjoyed it more," he said.

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Shane Gilster is the Editor of Big Red Report Magazine. His stories focus mainly on catching up with former Huskers and examining Nebraska athletic history.
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