Evans a full-fledged asset

Rarely in spotlight, Ravens' new fullback earns peers' respect

July 31, 1999|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

It's hard to believe that a man who stands 6 feet 1, weighs a stout 243 pounds and smacks people around for a living can go unnoticed.

Chuck Evans, the Ravens' new fullback, has long been accustomed to a lack of recognition. So he doesn't touch the ball much. Fine. So he visits the end zone about once a year. No problem. So he rarely is featured in weekly highlight reels. Oh well.

Don't think teammates fail to notice Evans. While he was blasting linebackers and clearing the way for tailbacks for the past six seasons in Minnesota, Evans enjoyed plenty of popularity. Pro Bowl halfback Robert Smith, for one, always gave Evans his due.

"Robert Smith bought me dinner at least 10 times during the season, and I'm talking big dinners, anything-you-want dinners," Evans said.

"As long as coaches and players and the organization appreciate what I'm doing, I don't need the glory. I've never been a glory guy, anyway."

In the same breath, Evans, 32, acknowledges that a chance to enjoy a little spotlight is one reason he chose to take the free-agent route out of Minnesota and follow coach Brian Billick to Baltimore. Another reason is that Evans brings detailed knowledge of Billick's offensive system.

Billick liked Evans enough to make him the first find of the Ravens' off-season. After Evans signed a three-year, $3 million deal on Feb. 18, Billick promised that the days of disappointing production at fullback here were over.

The Ravens have had their share of mediocre play at the position. From Carwell Gardner to Steve Lee to Roosevelt Potts to Kenyon Cotton.

In Billick's eyes, Evans is the real deal.

"Charles is one of the most multidimensional fullbacks in the league because he's skilled in three areas: blocking, running and receiving," Billick said. "His knowledge of our system will prove invaluable."

Said running backs coach Matt Simon: "Everyone in the offense knows the tempo and success are going to result from Charles Evans-type guys.

"Charles has a physical presence and he knows how to play the game. There's not a lot of wasted energy with Chuck. He plays the game efficiently. He's a leader in a way that the fan doesn't notice. But the troops rally around guys like him."

To be successful, Evans simply has to play well without the ball. Consider that he has never carried the ball more than 43 times in a season. He has never caught more than 22 passes. He has scored five touchdowns in his career. That figures to change, since Evans left behind that star-studded offensive cast of Smith, Cris Carter, Jake Reed and Randy Moss in Minnesota.

"There was only one football [in Minnesota], and everybody couldn't get it. We're still going to run Brian's system [here], but I should get a few more touches," Evans said. "I'll be happy if I get five to seven carries a game, and I get three, four or five catches a game, that's huge. I'm not greedy."

Evans' blue-collar attitude is rooted in the survival skills that have kept him around the game this long. When the Vikings took a flyer on him in the 11th round of the 1992 draft, Evans was a 220-pound halfback out of Division II Clark Atlanta University. When he arrived, he looked at the stable of halfbacks -- including Smith, Terry Allen and Darrin Nelson -- and realized a position change would be in order.

He spent the 1992 season on the Vikings' practice roster, adding bulk to a now-chiseled frame. He also committed himself to the unheralded role of blocking back. Evans has performed in that role in 69 consecutive games.

Evans, who grew up in Augusta, Ga., where his mother is a self-employed tailor and his father owns and operates a body shop, doesn't need much to be happy off the field, either.

He enjoys a round of golf, a trip to the movies, an occasional fishing trip and he indulged himself recently by purchasing a 26-foot recreation boat he is using to explore the Chesapeake Bay.

"I'm just into regular stuff, nothing too spectacular," he said.

Evans also prides himself on discipline. He has never fumbled as a pro, and said he has "never been late for anything" in his career.

An interesting detour in his collegiate career provided Evans with enlightenment. After two seasons at Clark, in which Evans recalls winning only three games, he decided to enlist in the Marine Corps. He re-entered Clark after two years, then played for two more seasons while he was active in the reserves.

Evans can still feel the brutality of boot camp on Parris Island.

"A summer in the heat in South Carolina. Sand fleas and bugs biting you," Evans recalled, as he pulled off his shoulder pads after yesterday's workout in muggy Westminster. "You're standing at attention and they're flying across your ears and your nose, and you can't move. That taught me a lot about discipline. It's definitely helped me in my career."

And as he enters his prime, Evans looked around at his new surroundings and thought about the possibilities.

"I'm just taking off," he said.

Ravens camp

When: Through Aug. 26

Where: Western Maryland College, Westminster

Directions from Baltimore: Take Baltimore Beltway to Exit 19 to Interstate-795 north to its end. Follow the signs to Westminster via Route 140 west to Route 31 south. At a blinking yellow light, turn left (Route 31). At the first traffic light, turn left on Main Street. Proceed up the hill. The parking entrance will be on the left.

Information: 410-261-FANS

Pub Date: 7/31/99

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