Michigan Wolverines running back Chris Evans was suspended for what would have been his senior season in 2019, but after a year off now finds himself in a spot where he finally can finish what he started at Michigan.
When games resume still remains to be seen, but Evans is happy to be back after an academic issue and in an offense under Josh Gattis that feels a little more normal to him than before.
“I’m happy to be back. It was a tough year off that I had, mentally and everything,” Evans told the Michigan media on Friday afternoon. “This offense is more of like what I did when I was in high school, so I’d say it fits me a little better. Whatever offense, whatever plays that we run, whatever they are, if they fit me or not, I’ve gotta make it work. That’s what I’ve been doing — at the beginning of my career here. So yeah.”
Evans was not sure if his football career would ever pick back up, but decided to stay in Ann Arbor before getting word in Nov. 2019 that he would be back on the team.
“Mentally, it was tough not knowing if I’d be able to play football again,” Evans said. “That was the big question as I got closer to the end of the school year in November. Then I got the good news, so I pretty much went the whole year without 100 percent knowing whether I was coming back. It wasn’t my choice, it was Coach Harbaugh’s and if the school was gonna let me back in and if I was gonna be back on scholarship. That question was the biggest one. So I was just sticking to what I knew and grinding all the time.”
His dedication to sticking around and staying busy in Ann Arbor was important to him as he positioned himself for a chance to get back into the university and onto the football team. Part of that included taking on a trio of very different roles that kept him active in the community.
“I wouldn’t say I’m impressed with how I handled it. I feel like I would have handled any situation (the way I did),” Evans said. “But I was the special teams coordinator at Ann Arbor Huron last year when they won their first game in 5-6 years — they won their first game, that was big. And then I was a carpenter. I put carpet down. Did mud and stuff, put drywall and stuff like that in various places. I was like an assistant. I was a delivery driver and washed dishes at Ahmo’s Gyros in downtown Ann Arbor. Those are my three jobs I worked.
“I’d carpet in the morning until (around) noon. Then I would (be at Ahmo’s) on the weekends and then afternoons I was at the high school coaching.”
It may have been easy to sit there and feel like Michigan gave up on him, but Evans maintains entering the transfer portal never was something that entered his mind as he watched his teammates play without him.
“Nah, I never thought of going anywhere else,” he said. “I didn’t 100 percent know I was coming back to Michigan, so that went through my head once or twice before. Michigan is ‘those who stay will be champions’ so I just stuck to that and that’s what I did.”
Evans also explained the contact he had with Jim Harbaugh and the football program when he got the news that he would be returning to the team.
“When I first found out, I talked to Coach Harbaugh,” Evans said. “He said, ‘Alright, we’re gonna get you started working out with (strength and conditioning coach Ben Herbert).’ I was working out with Coach Herb from the time that I got reinstated to when we came back, after the bowl game. Ever since then, ever since I got the news, I quit my job. I put my two weeks in and just hit the ground running.”
Evans’ story is one of perseverance and making sure that he stayed close by and waited for his opportunity and he admitted as much in his session on Friday.
“Life is all about patience. You’ve gotta be patient — things come to you. Just working it out — if you keep working hard and trust in the process, everything will come to you.”
When football is played again, Evans will be in a backfield that features a pair of budding young stars in Zach Charbonnet and Hassan Haskins. So far, he likes what he has seen from the two backs.
“They’ve both evolved really well,” he said. “Hassan evolved really well — Zach’s first year was here when I got suspended. Zach — the maturity in the pass protections and knowing who to block — my freshman year, everything was Chinese as far as who to block, when to block and what to do.
“Hassan is getting better every day, working harder in practice. This COVID stuff really gets you off course, but you just gotta stay locked in, and that’s what he’s been doing — everybody been doing.”