Entering NFL Draft week, Jordan Evans defines role of hometown hero

OU's Jordan Evans celebrates a big play during the Sooners' game against Baylor, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, at Owen Field. 

Jordan Evans is woven into the fabric of Norman North’s history.

It’s special to him, his family, his high school and even the city, that the Oklahoma linebacker could become North’s first National Football League draftee.

Evans was a terror on the high school football field; a linebacker who returned kicks.

Still, the Sooners didn’t offer him a scholarship until fairly late in the process. When they did, he knew what to do: stay home.

“When OU offered, it was a dream come true,” Evans said. “Two or three days later, I committed. I was able to play for my hometown in Norman, just right up the street. Everyone from my high school and [Norman High] filter into OU, so I had a lot of support. It has just been great that I get to experience that, because not many people get that opportunity.”

Though he went to college, he never left. 

Coaches at both high schools have stories of Evans’ impact, how his personality and commitment is inspirational. North football coach Brent Barnes has been a witness to Evans’ passion for mentoring younger athletes.

“Even at times, he would come talk to us as coaches and ask how certain guys are doing,” Barnes said. “He would let us know he’s working with them and really trying to challenge them to do better, use their talents to the best of their ability, or even walk the straight path. He really tried to do the best he could in that way.”

That went beyond football.

Assistant girls basketball coach Al Beal asked him to sit down with a student athlete who was having personal issues. He does the same with youth groups at Westside Church of Christ.

“Jordan is the type of guy you want your child to aspire to be,” NHS girls basketball coach and fellow churchgoer Michael Neal said. “He’s such a great example, completely selfless with his availability and time with kids. I can recall times where my 5-year-old son, Nash, personally asked Jordan to come to his YMCA basketball games, and he would be there watching, cheering and encouraging. This is normal for Jordan, not normal for the majority in his current position.”

Evans goes to many of North’s sporting events, especially girls basketball games, where he roots on his sisters, Jacie and Jessika. He was at their area consolation final against Ponca City at Tulsa Rogers High School on the same day as the NFL Scouting Combine, to which he did not receive an invite.

“He’s always been there for Jessika and I,” Jacie said. “He comes to all the sporting events not just because we’re sisters, but because he has former players there who he has taken under his wing. It’s very special to me and my family that he’s really busy but still makes time for us to come to games like that, especially as far away as Tulsa.”

While not receiving an invite to the combine or the Senior Bowl stung, Evans had experience with being underrated. As a three-star recruit, he wasn’t expected to contribute at OU right away. He was motivated by the skeptics and by his father, Scott, a Sooner defensive end and team captain in 1989 and ‘90.

“I didn’t want to come here and be a bust,” Evans said. “Obviously, we read blogs, newspapers, Twitter, and when I was coming in, they said I was going to be a good scout guy and special teams player. That’s how they saw me. That’s not how I wanted to be remembered at OU. I felt there was a good deal of pressure, because everyone was either expecting me to do bad, or great, and I just wanted to be me.”

Evans shined at OU’s pro day. He ran a 4.5 40-yard dash, top three among outside linebackers in this draft class, and recorded a 38.5-inch vertical leap, the best mark of the group. It helped solidify him as a late-round pick in the minds of draft experts. 

NFL.com rates Evans as a fifth to sixth-round selection. NFLDraftscout.com and CBS Sports believe he will go in the fifth round.

Cincinnati, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Philadelphia, Arizona, the Los Angeles Rams, Seattle, San Francisco and Detroit have shown varying levels of interest.

If Evans isn’t drafted, he would almost certainly sign as an undrafted free agent.

“For what he has done with his career, sometimes it’s easy for some guys to move on to that next chapter in their life, but he has always had a unique quality. He really cares about being a Norman North Timberwolf,” Barnes said.

The story won’t end when, or if, his name is called. Evans wants to go out and explore the world after being in Norman the last 22 years. 

He wants to stay close to home, too. He wants to continue to be that mentor, viewing it as “almost my duty to give back.”

“He’s just an altogether good guy and cares about the younger kids in the program and kids in his community in general,” said Norman North receiver Drake Stoops, a friend. “Then, he’s a really funny guy too. He can light up a room and make you laugh even if you’re having the worst day.”

Evans remains stunned by how far he’s come. He mentioned a moment during his training when he looked in the mirror and contemplated the journey.

“I was just like, ‘I’m actually doing something that not many people get to do’ and that’s just the opportunity to go through this draft process and having the opportunity to get drafted,” he said. “I’m going to have a shot in the NFL. I don’t know how many people can say those words. I definitely can’t take it for granted and it’s something I thank God for every day. 

“It’s a blessing to be able to do it all in my hometown.”

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