Art of the Steal

When Art Evans of Evangel Christian High School in Lakeland, Fla., informed Tennessee's coaching staff two days ago that he planned to enroll at UT in 2007, he didn't just make a verbal commitment, he enlisted for active duty as a weapon of mass production.

Put the 6-foot-1, 175-pound two-way star on the football field, and he's a big-play waiting to happen. Put the ball in his hands, and he'll put it in the end zone. Try to avoid him, and he'll destroy you with his deeds of daring and gift of theft.

His staggering stats as a seasoned junior tell part of Art Evans' success story, as he caught 62 passes for 1,632 yards and 16 touchdowns, intercepted 11 passes and returned an incredible 10 punts for TDs during Evangel Christian's 2005 Class-1A state title run.

"I returned 15 punts for touchdowns," Evans explained, "but five got called back so only 10 went into the books."

When you have 4.44 speed and reach double-digits in a single season for punt return, interception and pass reception touchdowns, no further accreditation as "play maker" is required. Still, Big Orange fans might be excited to know about one particularly impressive five-minute explosion Evans enjoyed in the 2005.

Locked up in a scoreless tie at the half in a District contest against a rancorous rival, Evans stepped up for Evangel and simply took over the game.

"The coaches gave us a pep talk and I came out ready," he recalled. "They were going in to score and I jumped on a slant (pass) and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown. They drove down again, but had to punt and I returned that 97 yards. Then we got the ball back and I scored on a 65-yard pass reception. I scored the first three touchdowns and we broke it wide open. We went on to win 54-0." It's hard to ignore an instant 257-yard, three touchdown outburst such as that, even if it did come against Class-A competition. In Florida, there's no such thing as small football.

"All of the classifications in Florida are tough," he stated with clear conviction. "That's why I go to these camps and compete against 5A guys and I come out on top."

There's certainly nothing small about the colleges pursuing Evans. He has received offers from Ole Miss, Georgia, Georgia Tech, West Virginia, Michigan State, Wake Forest, Iowa State, Duke, Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee among others. He is fully qualified with a 3.5 GPA and a 19 on his ACT.

"I was going to wait until I visited everybody because everybody was telling me I was their number one guy," Evans responded when asked about the timing of his decision. "I know I'm blessed with talent, but how many other people are you telling that same thing? I just felt Tennessee was being real up front with me, and I just liked it. I felt a lot of confidence in Tennessee."

And Vol coaches are probably just as confident they've got the steal of the 2007 recruiting class.

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