Cowboys are Better Because Nico Evans Refused to Quit
For three years, Nico Evans was the odd man out in the Wyoming running game.
He was the guy who would get the call on third down with the challenge of blocking for the quarterback. Oh, once in a while he’d get a chance to carry the ball, but not often. Try 36 carries for 108 yard in 37 games his first three seasons with the Cowboys.
Evans won the battle for the No. 1 running back during the spring, reaffirmed his status in fall ball. And despite missing two full games this season, plus all but five plays of the second half of a third game, he has produced the 13th 1,000-yard rushing season in school history. Right now he ranks No. 6 on the list, and with two regular-season games remaining could well wind up with the third largest rushing total in school history.
It’s a lesson in commitment and determination.
It’s the story of a young man out of Los Angeles, Ca., who came to Wyoming as a walk-on, the one school that invited him, and refused to say uncle when times were tough.
“A lot of players today do like to transfer, but my mind set is a little different,” said Evans. “If I’m not playing, I want to prove to everyone that I can, no matter where I am. I don’t need to go somewhere else in order to play. I can change opinions where I am.
“My parents taught me to not give up. If you believe in something, if you want something, don’t quit.“
Evans learned the lesson well.
As head coach Craig Bohl put it, “Nico is a case in point that goes 100-degree different from so many others in college football, the `If I’m not playing, if I’m not the man, I’m leaving,’” said Bohl. “Here’s a guy who put in his time, the guy we utilized on pass protection, who hardly ever ran. He did not just wait his turn, he improved, embraced the opportunity when it came. I think his numbers bear him out.”
Evans has played in eight of the Cowboys’ 10 games, including the game against Washington State, where he came five plays into the second half with a rib injury that forced him out of the next two games. He has rushed for 1,166 yards, the fourth best total yardage among Division I running backs. His average per game of 145.8 yards per game is second to the 151.4 yards per game of Jonathan Taylor of Wisconsin.
He is the only running back in the Mountain West averaging 100 yards a game, and has rushed for more than 100 yards in six of the eight games. Evans went for 89 yards in that partial game against Washington State.
“There are two parts to it,” said Cowboys offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. “It’s about opportunity, and it’s about Nico working hard to ultimately make the most of the opportunities.”
And it’s an opportunity that Evans had to wait until his senior season to receive.
“In this day and age, it’s certainly rare a guy hangs in there, believes in himself and says, `Give me an opportunity and I’ll show you what I can do,’’’ said Vigen. “He got that opportunity in the spring and after that we felt like, `Alright Nico.’ He put himself in position to be a regular guy.”
Evans’ attitude backs up his desires. His teammates voted him one of the Cowboys six team captains before the season began. Nobody is going to outwork Evans.
“It began in the weight room last winter,” said Bohl. “Constantly, I received feedback from our strength coaches about his progress, his due diligence, his attention to detail. And then his looks began to change.
“There are some guys who make strides in the weight room, but it doesn’t translate to what goes on in the grass. Nico? He did well in the spring game so you start to look. … Where he has changed is he has that extra gear. He pulled away (from the defenders), whether it’s Boise State or San Jose State. … Where he has changed is he has that extra gear.”
What hasn’t changed, though, is Evans focus and commitment.
“It’s heart-warming for me to see a guy who has come in, been a reserve, not complain, be the ultimate teammate, and all of a sudden he’s getting national attention. You don’t put up those kind of numbers without people taking note.
“It’s a case of keeping your nose to the grindstone, being a good teammate, working you butt off, and good things happen.”
Good things are happening for Evans.
And good things are happening for the Cowboys.
|Rushing Yards Per Game||Total Rushing Yards|
|1 Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin||151.4||1 Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin||1,363|
|2 Nico Evans, Wyoming||145.8||2 Darrell Henderson, Memphis||1,280|
|3 Darrell Henderson, Memphis (AAC)||142.2||3 J.J. Taylor, Arizona (Pac-12)||1,221|
|4 AJ Dillon, Boston College||128.1||4 Nico Evans, Wyoming||1,166|
|5 Eno Benjamin, Arizona St.||123.7||5 Eno Benjamin, Arizona St.||1,113|