Shaq Evans has never really gained the traction he would have liked to in terms of his statistics, but has nevertheless drawn a lot of notice for how polished a player he is as a wide receiver. He was able to have some big games for UCLA over the past two seasons, but it came in spurts as opposed to a consistent amount of production. Evans came up with some big plays in big games and helped the Bruins to a 10 win season including a bowl win.
Evans talks about his path to UCLA, what has allowed him to appear to be so equipped to play in the NFL, his hoop dreams, and some of the people who helped him along the way.
Peter Smith: Growing up in Inglewood, how did you end up choosing Notre Dame?
Shaq Evans: Basically just trying to be different, because a lot of guys from my area go to USC, UCLA and I just decided to be different and go somewhere that no one from where I’m from had ever been.
PS: What ultimately caused you to leave Notre Dame and go back home to UCLA?
SE: I just wasn’t happy there. I didn’t mesh well with the coach (Brian Kelly), you know; just wasn’t a good situation for me. Wasn’t happy and I felt like I’m 18; it’s okay to be happy and comfortable to succeed as a person, as a player, so I decided to transfer back home to UCLA.
PS: You look like a polished, professional wide receiver. What is it about Coach (Eric) Yarber that makes him so effective at getting that out of his players?
SE: He basically just beats it into your head. He’s a detailed technician. Coach Yarber, he wants everything done a certain way. And it’s the right way. He has an answer to every question that you ask him. If you ask him, how can I beat him this way, he’ll have an answer for you. Just him being that type of detailed technician; you just take on the personality of your coach I feel like. He made us all become that way. He obviously made me a better player, the two years that he had me.
PS: You have these big games like against USC as a junior where it looks like you’re ready to break out and for whatever reason, it just never seemed to happen.
SE: Yea, just always had that one game or two games. It’s just like, I’m about to break out and then it just falls off I guess. I don’t know, man. My senior year didn’t work out I wanted it to work out, but I mean, I’m making the best of the situation.
PS: So, what is your overall feeling on how your senior year went, both good and bad?
SE: It’s still a good, fun season, just being around my teammates, getting 10 wins, and the fun we had throughout the whole year, but also a little disappointing because we didn’t win the South (PAC-12 South) and we didn’t make it to thePAC-12 Title or win the PAC-12 like we had planned. And I didn’t have the type of production that I felt like I should have had. At the end of the day, it’s about your teammates and winning games, so it was still a fun year.
PS: Even though you didn’t have the production you thought you should have, the Senior Bowl saw enough talent to invite you down there, so what was the mindset when you went to Mobile?
SE: I was there to prove to everybody I could play; that I’m a guy that his production is down a little his senior year, but a guy you can see could have had better numbers, especially if you watch the tape and see how much I was open. A guy that can make plays when chances are presented to him, so I went down there to prove to those guys, so I went down to prove to those guys I’m a playmaker that can help any one of their teams.
PS: Do you feel like you accomplished that? Were you satisfied with the impression you left with people down there?
SE: Yea, it was maybe one or two drops I had that whole time there that I wish I could have back obviously, but the overall week, I showed that I can make plays down field, I can beat press coverage very well, which I feel is something very important for the next level, because anyone can beat zone coverage I feel like, but the guys who can separate from man coverage are the guys that make the money. I felt like I proved it that week and left a good impression on people.
PS: How much have you worked on that bull rush move? I’ve seen you knock down a few corners right off the snap.
SE: I see that as something that is natural for me. You put your hands up, I’m gonna knock them down. I feel like I’m strong enough and big enough to do it where I can just do it with both hands and pretty much just knock the guy out of the way or at least knock his hands down to where he can’t touch me anymore. If they can’t get their hands on you,corners get scared, so that’s where that came from. It came naturally, honestly.
PS: Do you feel like you’re a physical receiver?
SE: Yea, definitely. I can be physical when I need to be. I’m a guy that will go down and get safeties in Cover-4. I’m a guy that is going to beat press coverage with speed and quickness and sometimes with just strength. And I put that on tape and I feel like that’s just part of my game. I feel like I’m physical and also a good run blocker. And I feel like corners can tell that I can be physical when I need to be.
PS: Is there someone you feel like you compare to as a receiver?
SE: I’d probably say Andre Johnson. That’s the main guy I like. I grew up a a huge Miami fan also, so I used to watch him all the time at Miami. Seeing him in the league now and the type of player he is; he’s physical, he can run block also and he’s a guy that’s a good route runner. He can run underneath routes and he’s a deep threat. I feel like I’m the same type of player. I’m about 210. He’s about 210, 215-
PS: -Keep going.
SE: He’s probably a little taller than me-
PS: -Yea, he is. He’s 6’3” 220.
SE: Yea (laughs). He’s up there, so I’m about 6’1” 212, 215. I mean, like I said, we’re both physical guys who run good routes and also be a deep threat. So I feel that’s the type of guy I compare myself to.
PS: Were you satisfied with your performance at the combine?
SE: I’d say content. I mean, I definitely wanted to be in the 4.4’s at the combine, but 4.51. That’s damn near breaking 4.4. I wasn’t super disappointed. I was content. I was content.
PS: What’d you put up in Westwood?
SE: 4.3, 4.32. Yea, electric. I just made a little minor adjustment in my, uh-
PS: Was that adjustment a 35 yard track?
SE: No, no, no (laughs). There were scouts there. There were coaches there. They saw it was a 40 yard track. They had the timers out there just like the combine. Wasn’t nothing different. Just felt more comfortable and I actually changed my stance a little bit like instead of putting my arm back, I let it dangle, which I learned here at UCLA. I just felt more fresh. At the combine, they drain you for three days before you even do anything. It’s like you’re tired by then. Pro Day, felt good, felt better and the time was better. So, I guess I did do better.
PS: What game do you look at and say, this is what a team is getting from Shaq Evans?
SE: It was just never that game where I felt like showed everything. It just didn’t work out that way, but I would just put a mixture of games. With Nebraska, it was big plays. I had three or four plays over 30 yards that game. Arizona State, making big plays on key downs. 2nd and 17, I make a huge play that scores a touchdown that brings us within 5. I make a fourth down catch in that game to keep the drive alive, to keep the game alive. Also, Arizona, another big game, big plays; took a guy up top on first play of the game and made a big play to end the half with the toe drag. And the Calgame, making the spectacular catch between my legs. So I just put all those things, that’s the type of player I can be if I had the situation was the right way. Those are the type of things I feel like I could have done every game. And my stats would have been a lot better. Those are all things I can do and in the right situation, I can do that easily, in one game.
PS: Getting ready for the NFL, what has been the focus of your offseason training?
SE: Just getting better at running routes. As a receiver, you get paid to run routes and catch passes, so that’s the main thing. Footwork with cones and stuff; working on the top of breaks, the top of routes and always working on my hands. Always working on my hands; JUGs machines, whatever. Always catching passes, somehow, some way, it becomes natural. I always want to continue to do it so it stays natural.