Rashaan Evans' big-game mentality goes a long way for Alabama in national championshipsBy Matthew Speakman | 01/07/2018 12:09pm
Rashaan Evans played big roles in both of Alabama's previous two national championships.
ATLANTA- When the lights are the brightest, he shows up.
Linebacker Rashaan Evans has a big-game mentality. During the 2015 national championship, he made a name for himself. The former five-star recruit changed the game by getting pressure on Deshaun Watson. He finished with two sacks, which would go a long way in a close game.
Fast forward to Alabama’s rematch with Clemson in the 2016 national championship. Evans steps into a starting role and produces 11 total tackles.
Big time players show up for big-time games. No one is better on Alabama’s defense at doing that than Evans.
“I always try to do the little things in preparation to get me ready for a big game like this,” Evans said. “Each year that I've ever played in these big-time games, I've always understood that anything can happen, but at the same time control what you can control.”
Evans wants to solidify himself as Alabama’s game-changer in national championships when the team faces Georgia on Monday.
He is the Crimson Tide’s veteran leader in the middle. He gets up for big games, and his teammates notice that. They feed off of his performances in those big games.
“All of the greats make plays when the games are the biggest,” linebacker Jamey Mosley said. “It really says something about Rashaan. He’s stepped up in the biggest moments. He’s built and he’s primed for that.”
Evans spent his first three years being a role player. He was a pass-rushing specialist. It wasn’t his teammate, Shaun Dion Hamilton, got injured last season that he became a starter.
Evans waited behind great linebacker after great linebacker. He’s the definition of the process. A former five-star recruit that had to develop before he became the great player he is now.
He even changed positions along the way. He started out playing outside linebacker. He switched to inside, and has become an every-down linebacker like Reuben Foster and Reggie Ragland were for Alabama in previous years.
Even when he wasn’t a starter, Evans found a way to make an impact on each game he played in.
“Rashaan was never a guy that we were ever disappointed in,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. “He always made a contribution to the team in whatever his role was, and now that role has expanded into being a leader and one of the real bell cows on our defense.”
This year has been Evans’ first year as a full-time starter, and he’s faced his fair share of adversity. First, it was suffering a groin injury in the opening game that was so painful, he couldn’t even sit down to use the bathroom.
Then, after getting healthy, he watched almost every player at his position group suffer injuries of their own. Evans had to be paired with three different inside linebackers. He’s split play calling with Shaun Dion Hamilton, Mack Wilson and Dylan Moses.
At some point, all three of those guys have missed time. Evans plays multiple different roles, so switching play callers has been tough. Against Georgia, it will be Wilson handling that duty.
“A guy like Rashaan is high motor, who is always all over the place making plays and stuff like that,” Wilson said. “I feed off of that. I feed off of his energy.”
Over his career, Evans has 142 tackles, with 66 coming this year. That’s good enough for second on the team. As a pass rusher, he has six sacks, which is also good for second on the team.
Just like the last two years with Ragland and Foster, Evans is the senior middle linebacker who wants to finish off his legacy with a national championship.
It’s arguably the biggest game of his career. If Evans has another big game in a national championship, it shouldn’t surprise anyone. He has the big-game mentality.
“I feel like we didn't finish the way we wanted to for the seniors last year,” Evans said. “It would be a great achievement for a lot of the seniors to be able to go out like we wanted to.”