Great news came to Badger fans a day before kickoff of the 2002 Alamo Bowl, as All-American wide receiver Lee Evans announced he will return to Wisconsin for the 2003 season, as expected. Evans announced his decision early Friday morning during Wisconsin's final press conference before the team takes the field Saturday against Colorado in the 2002 Alamo Bowl.
"As some have hinted before, I will be returning to Wisconsin next year to play, and hopefully will be able to lead this team to good things," Evans said with grin covering his face from ear-to-ear, as he addressed the media for the first time in more than two months.
"The No. 1 thing is to come back healthy and play at the level I know I can and the coaches and players know I can," Evans said. "I want a Big Ten title as a team and for [the team] to come together and do things that I know we can."
The news was not only a relief for Badger fans, but also Offensive Coordinator Brian White, who had to deal with the loss of a superstar this season. Instead, he had to build his gameplans depending on first and second-year players.
"You don't replace Lee Evans' productivity…the dimension that he adds to a football team, the big play ability is considerable," White said. "It will be nice to have that back. One thing you learn when you are around great players is they don't come around as frequently as you would hope for."
Although Evans' second knee surgery has raised concerns about his return to football, the initial prognosis looks to be positive. There's little doubt the time off from now until spring football practice will give Evans an adequate amount of rest before he has to deal with the daily wear and tear of college football.
"Right now I am doing a little bit of rehab -- range of motion, a little bit of strength, but we are really going to back off until we get back to school so that it heals up right," Evans said. "I am not on a time line now so I can take it slow and more slowly than before."
The one astonishing aspect of Evans' recovery has been his positive attitude, both on and off the football field. Evans has continually put forth an optimistic attitude regarding his situation, never giving in to the countless obstacles he's been forced to endure.
"Every day presents its own little change," Evans said. "You learn a lot of things about yourself, about life, and about football. It's good because you share your experiences with other people and knowing that you are not the only one that is going through it, as other people have gone through it who have helpful advice."
Both Evans and Wisconsin's coaching staff believe the positive outlook he has repeatedly shown has, and will continue to pay benefits not only to Evans, but also to the entire football program.
"It's been amazing how he has been able to handle it," White said. "He has been such an inspiration to all of us, the coaches and players alike. To reflect on what he has had to go through mentally this year, it is almost cruel and unusual punishment."
Although his position in the NFL draft played a significant role in Evans' decision, it was in no way the only factor that was considered. His dream of graduating from the University of Wisconsin also played an important role.
"I am so close now that I will definitely be done next May," Evans said. "It is important to me. I have talked to people who have graduated and talked to people who have gone through the program and not graduated. You really see the importance of it."
It's no surprise that the Wisconsin coaching staff, players and fans will eagerly await Evans' return next year. With the experience that the young wide receivers had this season, Evans will have the supporting cast to lead the Badgers and re-establish himself as one of the premiere receivers in college football.
Evans Announces Return
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