■ 18 October 2008 | 1:28 PM
Ah, Boston. Good night out in Beantown for myself and at least one fellow scribe. Enjoyed a nice combo of the local townie-type pubs and the high-brow, jacket-required type joints.
This area is an interesting mix of good, hearty local folks (with great accents) and pinky-up sorts who – and this actually happened – make a point of asking the door man if he wants to see his license or his Haaaaavaaaahhhd ID.
But the diversity of people is what makes cities like this one great. Well, that, and the great old buildings and beautiful scenery. Cobblestone streets and such. When I’m in Boston, I feel like I’m in the America of old. The original America. I like it.
Anyway … there’s a football game tonight. A big one. If the Hokies win this one, they will be in serious control of the Coastal Division. I feel fairly certain every other team in the division will have at least two ACC losses.
So if Tech starts 3-0 … and assuming wins over Duke and Virginia (never good to assume, but given recent history against those two, sorry, I’m assuming) … Tech could lose to both FSU and Maryland (not saying they will) and still win the division with a win at Miami.
I guess what I’m saying is that if the Hokies win tonight, the only truly TOUGH game remaining on the schedule that they’d have to win would be against the ‘Canes.
Alas, projections such as this usually go to pot. So … let’s traffic in reality.
Keys to this game: 1) QB Tyrod Taylor has to be an quick decision-maker and an accurate thrower. 2) Interior linemen Nick Marshman, Sergio Render and Ryan Shuman MUST get some push against BC’s big D-tackles, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace in order to get Darren Evans and the running game going. 3) Tech’s defense has to pressure Chris Crane. He’s quicker than Matt Ryan and will buy some time with his feet (and also take off with it some). He’s a new starter, so he can be rattled. But he won’t be if he has time to throw.
I’d say if Tech achieves two of those three, the Hokies win.
That’s all the analysis I’ve got for ya right now. It’s a beautiful day and I’m headed down to the Charles River to watch a big regatta … one of the most famous boat races in the world, I’m told.
To tide you over ‘til kickoff, here are the remaining Darren Evans interviews. Three men who’ve had an impact on Evans and have strong opinions of the talented young man. Enjoy …
RB COACH BILLY HITE
ON TAILBACK DARREN EVANS BEING A TEEN FATHER: “Obviously, he’s a young man that had to grow up real quick. The thing I respect most about him is that he’s taken care of his responsibilities. Most guys that age, they run away from it. He was the complete opposite. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anybody as young as he is that loves being a dad as much as he does. How good he is with that child is just unbelievable, and James is lucky to have a dad like Darren Evans.”
ON SPENDING TIME WITH LITTLE JAMES: “I had him on the official visit. While he and his family would eat dinner or breakfast, I had the baby. That was the big joke. His mother called home and said, ‘I think he’s got a grandfather down here.’ Any time they sat down to eat or had something to do, I held the baby. He’s a special little boy.”
ON BEING IN THE HOSPITAL THE DAY JAMES WAS BORN: “I’ve been in coaching a long time, and you get to a point where you feel like you’ve seen and done it all in recruiting. So when I flew into Indianapolis, I called the high school coach, and he said, ‘Can you come to the school right now?’ I didn’t have a home visit until later on that evening. So I went over to the school and the coach comes out and jumps in my car and says, ‘The Evans have to have the visit now.’ I say OK and then next thing I know, we pull up at the hospital. I said, ‘What is wrong?’ He said Darren’s girlfriend was getting ready to have the baby. So here I am with her parents, his parents, some aunts and uncles, some brothers and sisters, about 25 of us in the maternity room, with her in labor, laying there on the bed, and I’m sitting there talking about what Virginia Tech has to offer. She was just in labor. She wasn’t birthing the baby. We left the room before then. I called Coach Beamer and said, ‘You ain’t going to believe this one, buddy.’ You think you’ve seen it and done it all. I’d never had one like that before. But it was two special families and Darren and Taneesha are two special young people. James is lucky to have them.”
ON TALKING TO DARREN WHEN HE FOUND OUT HE WAS HAVING A BABY: “I told him, ‘You’re not the first player I’ve coached with a baby in school.’ And I told him all I asked was that he take care of his responsibility as a father. It’s the same talk I’ve given every running back here when they’ve given me that kind of news. That’s my thing: You’re bringing this person into the world, so be sure you bring it up right.”
ON WHETHER THERE IS SOME AMOUNT OF WORRY, THOUGH, AS A COACH HAVING SUCH A YOUNG KID COMING IN WITH A CHILD, WHETHER HE CAN HANDLE IT: “Just from seeing him with his gown and his mask on in that room, and to see how his eyes were lit up, I knew it was something special. I probably would’ve felt leery about it if I hadn’t been there, would’ve wondered if he could do all the things he needed to. But once I saw him, and then saw him on his official visit with that baby, I had no concerns whatsoever. And his parents play a big role, and Darren’s father sat down with me and told me, ‘Darren’s going to have to miss some things in his baby’s life, but that baby’s going to be taken care of every day.’ ”
ON HOW HARD LAST SEASON WAS FOR EVANS, BEING AWAY FROM HIS CHILD AND ALSO NOT PLAYING: “I was worried to death. I had him in here I don’t know how many times in this office. I kept telling him, ‘Darren, it’s a natural reaction. You’re not playing, No. 1, and you’re used to being the big star. No. 2, your whole life has changed. This is one of the major changes in your life. You went away to school, had never left home before, you just had a child, on a team at a major college and not playing … three or four major changes kids go through in their lifetime, all in a couple months.’ It was tough on him. But at the same time, I kept trying to tell him … we were in October, he was in here in tears, missing his baby, saying, ‘I don’t know if I want to do this.’ The only thing I kept saying is, ‘By you leaving here, you’re not helping yourself and you’re not helping Baby James.’ If he transferred, he would’ve wasted another year of his life. And once January came around, it was going to be his turn here. He would be on the varsity. He’d be competing for a job. So it was just November and December. If he could make it through two more months, he’d be OK. He had a couple episodes with it. But he knew our doors were always open, any time he needed to sit down and talk. A couple times, I called him in myself, because he wasn’t himself, and I mean even in study hall and not doing things he was supposed to. But I understood why. I knew what the problem was. We just had to find a way to get through it.”
ON EVANS BEING BUMPED TO NO. 4 ON THE DEPTH CHART AT THE START OF AUGUST CAMP: “I wasn’t going to play him. I told him, ‘You’re not figuring in.’ And he honestly wasn’t. If he hadn’t changed at that point in time, you wouldn’t have seen Darren Evans on that field this year. That’s how big a difference it was between spring practice and how he performed when he first got out there in August. I think it was an eye-opener for him. He finally realized, ‘I better get my act together.’ He wasn’t in shape, No. 1. In this business, you get better in the offseason. You don’t have much time to get better during the season.”
ON WHETHER HE RESPECTED THE REASON, THOUGH, THAT EVANS WAS OUT OF SHAPE, BECAUSE HE WENT HOME THE FIRST SUMMER SESSION TO WORK AND SAVE MONEY FOR THE FAMILY: “No. Not at all. That’s thing I talked to him originally about: There’s a time and place for everything. His commitment to us is to be in the classroom, the weight room, on the practice field, and now you have to find other time to make money. He’s the one that put himself into that situation. Now he has all these other responsibilities. I told him to find a way to be responsible for every situation that comes about. I told him, he’s going to go through college life without ever being a normal college student. He can’t. He has too many responsibilities. But I also told him when I played, many years ago, that was the norm. We had nine or 10 guys on my college team that were married. So I told him it can be done, because I’ve seen it done.”
ON HOW EVANS GOT BACK IN THE MIX, THEN, AT TAILBACK: “He was a different practice player. He came out and practiced like Darren Evans used to practice. He wasn’t going through the motions, which he had been. I don’t know if he really thought because of where he came out of spring the job was automatically his. But he started practicing and scrimmaging better after I bumped him. By the time we got into game week, he was back to the old Darren Evans.”
ON HOW WELL HE’S PLAYING RIGHT NOW: “Very well. From a running standpoint, he’s been very, very good. The minimum broken tackles he’s had in a game is five. He’s had as many as 10. He had an outstanding game blocking against Nebraska on the draws the quarterback ran, but he gave up a sack in his protection. It wasn’t that he didn’t know who to block, he just didn’t defeat the guy. But I’ve been very pleased with him, and I think the thing is, Darren feels very confident. When you talk to him, when you look at him, he feels very comfortable with the success he’s had so far this season. I think it’s important for everybody to feel good about themselves. Success is what causes that. When you have success, it’s contagious. I think Darren’s feeling very, very good about himself.”
ON EVANS BEING THE FIRST BACK AT TECH TO RUN FOR A TD IN EACH OF THE FIRST SIX GAMES OF HIS CAREER, PASSING CYRUS LAWRENCE’S FOUR-GAME STREAK: “It’d be more important to me if he beats Cyrus’ rushing career record. And there’s no reason he can’t if we keep giving him the ball.”
ON HOW MUCH POTENTIAL EVANS HAS, WHETHER HE CAN BE THE NEXT GREAT BACK AT TECH: “I think so. He’s got great vision. He’s strong, breaks tackles, and everybody talks about him not having great speed … but my big thing is he had 40 runs over 50 yards in high school, so he’s fast enough. I’ve had guys that ran 4.3, 4.4, but they ran it to the sideline, not going north. And they didn’t play at a 4.3. They played at a 4.6 or a 4.7. Whatever he runs, if it’s a 4.5, he plays at 4.5 all the time, every down. I think Darren can be whatever he wants to be.”
ON HIS FAVORITE THING ABOUT EVANS’ RUNNING STYLE: “He’s breaking tackles and going north and he’s always dragging somebody with him. Occasionally, he still has to learn and it’s the one thing I talk to him about, is get his pads down. Those are really the only times he’s ever gotten knocked back, when he gets his pads up high. With a tall back, that’s always a problem. So we have to get his pads down.”
ON HOW EVANS NEVER GETS TACKLED FOR LOSS: “It’s tough for one man to bring him down. That’s what we talk about all the time. If he does get hit behind the line, he’s still falling forward and making positive yards. And he’s got outstanding vision. He sees things out there right now that sometimes your junior and senior running backs don’t see.”
ON WHAT THAT MEANS, SPECIFICALLY, WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE ON THE FIELD, THE TERM ‘GOOD VISION’: “Well, for example … one game, we ran the isolation on the goal line and Kenny Jefferson had to pick up the 5-technique that sparked. We missed the block up front, so he picked him up. Then the linebacker came running through. Well, all I see is Kenny blocking somebody. I didn’t see it was the 5-technique, and all the sudden Darren sprints back, cuts back to the left. When he came back to the sideline, I said, ‘Why’d you cut that back?’ And he explained it. I never saw it, but he saw it, and almost scored. Those are the kind of things, him seeing things happening and making a move off of it. To be that powerful and have that vision, it’s special. He has good, good football sense. Some guys just don’t have that. He understands the game and he has been studying it.”
ON HOW REWARDING IT IS, KNOWING DARRENS’ BACK STORY, TO SEE HIM HAVING SUCCESS: “Every player on this team is different, and there are certain individuals that wouldn’t be successful in Darren’s shoes. For whatever reason, they couldn’t handle all the responsibilities he has. But he’s grown up real quick, and I think his upbringing is a key factor in it. A lot of kids, unfortunately, they don’t have two parents. He does, and that’s big in the way he handles things. And then, I think it’s just Darren. To do what he’s done, obviously he has a lot of confidence, and he’s going to find a way to be the very best at whatever he does. You have to love a kid like that.”
DARREN EVANS SR.
ON HOW PROUD HE IS OF HIS SON’S SUCCESS: “I’ve been Darren’s biggest fan since he was in the second grade. I’m extremely proud that he’s achieving the goals that he set. And it’s fun to watch him play. But it goes a little bit deeper. Because I’ve watched him go from, well, when he was born to when his son was born, so I’m very proud.”
ON HOW HIS SON’S OWN FATHERHOOD MADE HIM GROW UP FASTER: “I don’t know if it made him grow up faster. Darren was always pretty responsible. I can remember him watching cartoons. He was always doing other things. He was real busy, real adventurous. And he was always pretty responsible. I don’t think there would be a big change between if he was just going to school and him having James there with him like it is now. He’d still be studying and doing things right. He never did like to go out. I never worried about him partying.”
ON EVANS GETTING TWO JOBS AND STARTING TO SAVE MONEY BEFORE HE TOLD HIS PARENTS ABOUT HIS GIRLFRIEND’S PREGNACY: “He would go to Mississippi in the summer to visit his grandparents, and he was always working, doing things. His granddad taught him to drive at 8 years old. He always stayed busy, always worked. So when he said, ‘I want to get a job,’ I just thought it was Darren being Darren. But I’ll never forget the day when he said, ‘I want to talk to you and Mom.’ He wanted us to step outside and he just said it: ‘Taneesha’s pregnant.’ I was shocked, first of all. I couldn’t put it in one word. I was shocked, angry and disappointed at the same time, and all equally. It was all three. Then, as I talked to him, it leaned more toward disappointment than anything. Because I knew what Darren wanted to do and where he wanted to go. And at that time, I didn’t know how he was going to get there. I knew he wanted to go to school. He was looking for a certain thing. Our whole family assisted Darren in his recruiting, but he chose the schools we would visit. I would just set them up. But he was running that. I knew what he wanted to do, and it didn’t include schools close to home. So my first wonder was, how is that going to go with him having a child? I wondered where he would go, how he would respond.”
ON HIS OPINION CHANGING, THOUGH: “As we talked about it over the time … we knew Taneesha, and I knew she was a good girl, so I wasn’t worried about her … and she said right off that she wouldn’t stand in the way of him going to school. Then we just all decided that whatever the cost, we would work it out.”
ON BEING WORRIED THAT HIS SON’S FOOTBALL CAREER WAS IN JEOPARDY: “It didn’t bother me until later in that first discussion, when he said, ‘Don’t worry. I’ll get a job. I’ll go to IUPUI. I’ll take care of it.’ I was like, ‘No. Whatever happens, we’ll work it out together. But you’re going to school.’ ”
ON WHAT, EXACTLY, WAS SAID IN THAT FIRST CONVERSATION ABOUT THE PREGNANCY : “He just said, ‘I have something very important to tell you.’ He said he didn’t know how to tell us. When he said that, I knew. He said, ‘Taneesha’s pregnant.’ His mother, she was more visible with her disappointment. There were some tears and, ‘Oh, Darren! Why? Why?’ I just tried to keep them calm. He just told us how and when he believed it happened, and we just told him that we wished he had waited. But at that point, I just assumed him and Taneesha wanted to be together, because they’d been together for three years. There wasn’t any other kid in Indianapolis that had the opportunity Darren had to meet and see other girls, but it didn’t bother Darren. He didn’t even think about that. I pretty much knew they were going to be together, so we just talked about what to do from there, where to go from there. We just told him everything doesn’t have to be decided tonight.”
ON TECH RECRUITING EVANS AND HOW BIG IT WAS THAT THE COACHES WERE SO SUPPORTIVE OF HIM HAVING A CHILD: “To me, it was comforting that they showed that interest. I really didn’t know how genuine it was. You know the politicians: They hold the baby, they kiss the baby. Then they put him down and say, ‘That stinkin’ baby!’ But when we took the official visit, almost every event we went to, Coach Hite or Coach Wiles or Coach Beamer’s wife, somebody was always holding the baby. That kind of caring, you can tell it’s genuine. That was real refreshing. It’s like they recruited James also. To me, they’re a group of the best people, coaches there is. And they just happen to win also.”
ON HIS SON STRUGGLING WITH REDSHIRTING LAST YEAR AND ALSO DEALING WITH NOT HAVING HIS SON WITH HIM IN BLACKSBURG: “We had a lot of conversations. Sometimes, Darren would call and I could tell something was bothering. He doesn’t whine a lot, so he’d just say, ‘Nothing.’ But every now and then he would break down and we’d talk about what was best. He knew. But it was very hard for him. For him, the top things he could do is spend time with his family – not just Taneesha and James, but the rest of us – and play football. For the first time since the second grade, he wasn’t playing football. And he was there facing it by himself. He felt like he was out on an island. The middle of the season, he wanted to quit. He wanted to come home. That was our toughest conversation about it. We hadn’t been there to visit and I knew Christmas was coming up and that he would have time to come home, and it was around James’ birthday … him being away from James bothered him real bad. He wanted to be here for his birthday, so we worked it out so that he could. But before that, he was ready to give up. He was tired of being on the scout team and he missed his son and his family. We just worked it out. I told him that he had to keep going, that the best thing he could do for his son was finish school. He worked through it. The timing of the visit and the excitement of going to the Orange Bowl with the team, that all helped out.”
ON BEING PROUD OF THE WAY DARREN HANDLED FATHERHOOD AS A TEENAGER: “I’m proud of Darren and Taneesha. I know that Taneesha depends on Darren a lot to make decisions, but I know that she works hard and they work well together. I couldn’t be prouder of him. I can remember here in Indiana after he won Mr. Football … I can remember people writing about Darren … there was an article in the paper with something in the headline about ‘Role model’ and some people were saying, ‘How can he be a role model? He had a kid when he was just a kid.’ But if you make a mistake, don’t dwell on it. And his principal said in that story that he couldn’t be prouder of a kid who took a mistake and turned it into a good thing. And in that respect, he’s a role model for others. Some of the ‘moral’ people were against him being called a role model. Well, you mean to tell me teenagers aren’t having sex? They are. Teenagers have babies more than you want to think. And how many times is that girl left alone with that child? The father just leaves. But Darren didn’t do that. He has done everything he can for his son. He does everything he can to spend time with his son. I couldn’t be prouder of that. I’d be an idiot to think that him and Taneesha both won’t make more mistakes going forward. Everybody makes mistakes. But anything that could’ve stopped them hasn’t. That’s a proud thing there. I’m very proud.”
ON WHEN HE STOPPED WORRYING ABOUT HIS SON’S FUTURE: “I’d say a couple conversations after he first told us. The first conversation he was like, ‘I don’t have to go away to school. I’ll go to school here and get a job.’ But we decided that whatever we had to do, keeping James, letting Taneesha move in with us, whatever we had to do, we would work it out. And when I knew that he would be happy was after this past spring. He called and told me he knew he was going to play. Might not start, but he thought he’d play. I knew then that once he got in the rotation, that’s all it would take, that’s all he would need.”
ON HIS EXCITEMENT OVER DARREN’S FOOTBALL SUCCESS: “It’s not something you can describe, the pride I have for him. The thing that I think about most is that sooner or later, he’s going to break out and have a real big game. I know it’s going to happen and most Tech fans are excited about seeing him play. I think, just wait until he breaks a long run. I see Darren … like when he was in high school, he got 27 touchdowns as a sophomore, got 37 as a junior, and as a senior he had 62. I see him doing the same thing here at Tech. What he does, he just gets better and better. I see him doing that. I see him next year being better than he was this year. Just like his running style: He doesn’t go backward. So I just know the best is yet to come. I get excited thinking about that.”
ON HIS SON BEING THE ULTIMATE SUCCESS STORY: “I never doubted that Darren could keep being successful. I’m not totally up on what his grades are, but I know he’s doing well in his classes. It’s hard to ask for anything more. He just keeps taking adversity and putting it behind him and doing good things. That’s ultimately what you want for your child. You know there’s going to bumps, but to see him keep succeeding anyway, that’s what you want.”
ON A VISIT LAST YEAR WHEN JAMES WOULD NOT GO TO DARREN, AND THAT BEING A BIG FACTOR IN DECIDING TO MOVE JAMES TO BLACKSBURG: “James, if something’s strange to him, he’s real curious. So he’ll stand right there, but he won’t touch it. That’s how he was to Darren. He sort of knew who he was, but he’d stand right there … just close enough. But he wouldn’t go to Darren. You have to imagine for a parent, I know how I would feel if one of my children didn’t recognize me, even for a second.”
ON HOW MUCH HAPPIER DARREN IS WITH JAMES LIVING WITH HIM: “He’s real happy. Now the only thing that bothers him is when he’s had a rough practice. Some nights he’s tired and worn out, but he’s really happy. He’s a great friend to Taneesha and an even greater father to James. It’s like the complete reversal of his first year. He was away from family and not playing. Now he’s playing a lot and his family there, so he’s very happy. We’re all very happy.”
AL MOULTON (AGE 34), WHO WORKED WITH EVANS THIS SUMMER
ON HOW HE GOT TO KNOW EVANS: “He interned with us at our shop (in Indianapolis). It’s called Star Environmental. We deal with asbestos, mold and lead abatement. I’m the shop manager, the superintendent, and I take care of all the trucks and maintenance and facilities. He kind of was just my helper all summer.”
ON HIS IMPRESSION OF EVANS: “Darren is an awesome kid. He’s definitely a good one. Very quiet and humble. It probably took him two weeks to come out of his shell. Then we talked about football. I played semi-pro ball for 14 years, so football was a big part of our conversations. And the Lord. I’m a spiritual guy and so is Darren. And our families. I’ve got six kids and he’s got one, too. We’re kind of two peas in a pod. He’s a good friend to me now. I’ll be friends with him for life.”
ON WHAT’S MOST IMPRESSIVE ABOUT EVANS: “Just his humility, I think. He never complained about anything I ever asked him to do or about life in general. He’s been through some trials as a young man, and I’ve never heard him complain. That’s probably impressed me most about him.”
ON EVANS HELPING TO TAKE CARE OF HIS FAMILY: “Being an athlete and a kid with the potential that Darren has – he was the best thing since sliced bread in high school here in Indianapolis – you’d think he’d walk around with a chip on his shoulder. Not Darren. The first time I met him, I knew in five minutes what he was about. Basically, he just wants to take care of his son. That’s his No. 1 priority. To be 18 and going to a big school like Virginia Tech and have the whole world in front of you, it’s pretty impressive. Most kids his age are out chasing girls and partying.”
ON THE IMPORTANCE OF EVANS’ SON TO HIM: “James is Darren’s world. Just the other day I talked to him for about an hour and we just shared some fatherly things. I’ve got a new son at home. My first son. I’ve got five girls. I was just sharing with Darren how it tickles my heart and he feels the same. We’re on the same page.”
ON BEING EXCITED TO SEE HIM SUCCEED IN FOOTBALL: “We spent every day together, and I tried to give him some general insight and lessons on how to be and how to carry yourself. And I’m super proud of him. I look at him like a little brother. He gave me tickets for the Nebraska game, so my brother-in-law and I and a couple other guys drove out to the game. We’re all super proud of him.”
ON WHAT IT’S LIKE WATCHING EVANS PLAY ON TV: “It’s one of those, ‘Aw, man, I know that guy!’ I love seeing him score. He’s got a nose for the end zone. I call him ATM --- Automatic Touchdown Machine. It’s different seeing him from high school to college. In high school, nobody touched him out there. But he’s starting to get his grind on now. The more carries he gets, you’ll see. He’ll start carrying that team on his back.”
ON WHAT EVANS DID FOR HIM THIS SUMMER: “A little bit of everything. He loaded trucks. I taught him how to cut steel, use a torch and weld. I taught him to change the oil on our trucks. Hauling scraps. He did a little bit of everything. It’s dirty work. We were unloading 400, 500 bags of asbestos in a day, busting concrete with sledge hammers. He’s a hard worker, that’s for sure.”