Retirement can wait for NU's Evans

EVANSTON, Ill. -- Just a year ago, Quinn Evans had put his college football playing days behind him.

Evans had suffered a severe hip injury prior to last season at Stanford and was told by doctors his football career was over. He medically retired from the team, was finishing up his undergraduate degree and was preparing for life after school.

“First and foremost, you learn how special football is,” Evans said. “It goes back to the saying you never know what you have until you lose it. You have your first serious injury, and you’re like, ‘My career can be over.’ When someone tells you, your career is over, it opens your eyes.

“Up until a few months ago, I was going into the medical sales. I was forced to come to terms with that reality.”

Evans’ reality has spun back since then. Just when he began accepting his medical sales’ fate, his hip began feeling better in the winter. He started training again and continued to see progress. His mind wandered to thoughts of playing football again.

Evans reached out to Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald, who had recruited Evans out of high school in Arizona, and expressed an interest in transferring for his postgraduate season if the Wildcats would have him. In June after Evans had made an official visit and had been cleared by the Wildcats’ medical staff, Northwestern announced Evans was transferring from Stanford for his final season.

“Since I medically retired, I was not able to come back (to Stanford,)” Evans said during Northwestern’s media day on Wednesday. “I had no choice. I wasn’t able to play there. It was a pretty easy decision. I knew I could take advantage of the grad transfer rule. I talked to coach Fitzgerald. Luckily, he was gracious enough to give me a fifth year here, so I was pretty excited about it.”

Fitzgerald was pleased to be able to offer Evans another season.

“Obviously, we’re really happy for him just to have the opportunity to be out there playing,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s all he wanted was a chance. We had a scholarship that came available. It all worked itself out and the stars all aligned.”

On Monday, when Evans placed a Northwestern helmet over his head in the Wildcats’ first training camp practice, he couldn’t help but think of where he’s come from in the past year.

“I was actually talking to the players about it,” Evans said. “It was special. Just to be able to run around and put a helmet on the first time, it was very fun, it was very exciting.”

Northwestern has provided Evans a place to give his career one last go, and Northwestern hopes Evans can provide it with a veteran cornerback in a secondary which ranked last in pass defense in the Big Ten last season. Evans, who is 5-foot-10 and 177 pounds, played 20 games in two seasons at Stanford, seeing most of his time on special teams and as a backup in the secondary.

Fitzgerald was positive about what he had witnessed from Evans after two days of practice.

“After two days in shorts, I’m very pleased with No. 1 his fitness level for a young man who has been out for a couple of seasons,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s in really good shape. He’s learning a new language. He’s obviously picking up our playbook.

“He’s a very explosive athlete from what I’ve seen. He’s got a willingness to want to learn. Based on the whole package with what I think he brings with a little bit older guy in that secondary, yeah, I think he’s putting himself in position to compete for (a starting position.) Let’s see if it unfolds and happens.”

Evans is optimistic his addition can be beneficial to the Wildcats this season. It’s not about just being on the field again.

“I hope to be healthy and be a mainstay on the defense,” Evans said. “I would like to get out there and try to really help out the secondary and be a part of something special.”