February 4, 2009

Evans goes his own way

During a day loaded with pomp and soaked in circumstance, Shaquelle Evans had little time for either.

The 6-foot-1, 203-pound receiver signed his letter of intent with Notre Dame at home on Wednesday morning before heading to Inglewood High School. Consider it another example of what set Evans apart in a star-making process that's amplified annually.

While plenty of prospects staged press conferences for ESPN and called misdirection plays with headgear, Evans went about his business relieved to skip the circus. Ever since he committed to the Irish in November, this four-star prospect had the look of somebody content to blaze his own trail.

"I wanted to be different and go somewhere else," Evans said. "The easier thing to do is stay home and be close to everybody you already know. The hard thing to do is get away and experience something new. You have to learn to be independent some time, why not now?"

Evans doesn't pretend that local pressure didn't exist.

UCLA coveted the game-breaking wide out. USC almost landed him after Evans watched a blowout of Ohio State from inside the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Trojans' link also extends inside Inglewood High School, where a jersey of Lawrence Jackson hangs in the principal's office. Jackson went on to USC before turning into a first round pick.

"Shaq is a wonderful kid," said Irish assistant Brian Polian, who recruited Evans. "His personality and his demeanor matched what Notre Dame represents.

"(Inglewood) supported him in that decision. They were more Shaquelle Evans fans more than they were S.C. or UCLA fans."

After today maybe there will be a few new Notre Dame fans in the Los Angeles area.

"Today was just a great day to do something I never thought I would do and sign to a top-tier program, a program with great tradition, a winning program," Evans said. "The coaches told me that I'll be a big addition to the program and they congratulated me. They were telling me how I can come in and play early and help the team."

When Evans arrives in South Bend next summer he'll join Manti Te'o in a class that finished with a bang on Signing Day. Evans met the five-star linebacker at the Hawaii Prep Classic in December and hoped his Irish advice stuck. Maybe it did, although Evans wasn't holding his breath today.

"Honestly, I thought he'd pick USC," Evans said. "I still had some optimism that it would be Notre Dame and I'm glad that he ended up choosing to come. He boosts our recruiting class and it shows Notre Dame is coming back up."

Evans wasn't as pleased when he learned safety Byron Moore from nearby Narbonne High School had signed with USC. The two played in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and talked about rooming together in South Bend. The Irish appeared to lead for Moore less than 48 hours before Signing Day.

"It was a little disappointed to see him go there," Evans said. "At least Manti made up for it."

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