PITTSFORD, N.Y.—Tired and dripping with sweat after two hours under the August sun, Lee Evans still finds the strength to run off the practice field.
The Bills rookie does not want to be late for his first commercial shoot.
"I haven't done anything like this before," says the Wisconsin Badgers all-time leading receiver with an excited grin. "They told me about it yesterday."
Video games, athletic shoes and Gatorade will have to wait. Evans' first endorsement is a public service announcement for bicycle helmet safety. He poses with fellow receiver Josh Reed and two local lawyers that dub themselves "The Injury Attorneys."
One of the Injury Attorneys struggles to catch and hand off a football. Evans and Reed then have trouble delivering their line—"Take it from us. Be smart. Be safe. Have fun."—in tandem. It takes a half dozen takes, but eventually, everything goes smoothly.
"Let's run through it one more time," says the director.
Once taping is complete, Evans is asked who's harder to please: a football coach or a director.
"A football coach," he responds immediately. "No doubt about it."
Evans' answer may come as a surprise to Bills head coach Mike Mularkey, who has raved about his first-round draft pick.
"Lee is going to be a special receiver," says Mularkey. "He is a little bit of an older player because of the situation in Wisconsin (Evans sat out a year with a knee injury). He is a smart guy. That is one of the things about him, he picks up things very quickly."
"It was always my goal from day one to come back and be as effective as I was," says Evans of his return from the injury.
Two weeks into his first NFL camp, teammates have been impressed with Evans' explosive speed and willingness to work. He lit up the Cleveland Browns secondary with a 49-yard catch in a recent scrimmage.
"You've got to have the deep pass (in the offense)," says Bills Pro Bowl receiver Eric Moulds. "I think that's why we drafted Lee. If they try to double team me, Lee has the ability to get down field and get the big play."
"Lee obviously has great physical tools," says Bills quarterback Drew Bledsoe. "He's got great speed and explosiveness, but the thing that Lee has that I think will help him separate himself from the pack is a tremendous work ethic."
With Bledsoe, Moulds, and running backs Travis Henry and Willis McGahee, Evans finds himself surrounded by big-name talent. But he is trying to take it all in stride.
"I haven't been star-struck by them, but it certainly is an honor and privilege to play with these guys. Number one, just to be on this level and second, to have such great guys to watch and learn from. With that comes a lot of responsibility as well. They've certainly played with a lot of great guys, and if I step up and Drew has the confidence to throw it to me, I've got to be able to make the plays."
If Lee Evans keeps making the plays for Buffalo, he'll soon be mentioned in the same breath as the Bills other offensive stars.
Hey, the Injury Attorneys have already taken notice.
Shawn Krest is a freelance writer based in western New York
Lee Evans: Life as an NFL rookie
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