Welcome to The Hook, my weekly column that hooks you into a different Tampa Bay Buccaneers topic each Thursday, as well as some of my thoughts on the Bucs and the NFL at the end in a section called Cannon Blast.

I invite you to offer me some feedback on The Hook below in the article comments section.

I’ll admit, when the Buccaneers were on the clock and Scott Reynolds and I were sitting inside the media room at the Advent Health Training Center that April night in 2014, I was hoping for a certain quarterback named Johnny Manziel.

Sure, the Bucs had signed Josh McCown in free agency and also still had Mike Glennon, but finding a dynamic playmaker under center would be exciting and Manziel would be an upgrade over McCown or Glennon –  at least that is what I thought that night.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR

Reason No. 391 why I am not an NFL general manager or scout.

And if the Buccaneers passed on “Johnny Football” LSU receiver Odell Beckham Jr., FSU’s Kelvin Benjamin or Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks were on the board still.

Reasons No. 392, 393 and 394 why I am not an NFL general manager or scout.

Jason Licht and head coach Lovie Smith called in the pick to the NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell stepped to the podium.

“With the seventh overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select, Mike Evans, wide receiver, Texas A&M.”

Ehhh, okay. I guess.

Reason 395 why I am not an NFL general manager or scout.

To say Licht and crew got their very first draft pick correct for Tampa Bay would be a gross understatement.

They crushed it.

Licht and his front office scouts knew Evans would be special. Maybe not this special, but they knew he would be a great NFL receiver.

“We marveled at the dominance had on the field in his two years at Texas A&M,” Licht told me on Wednesday. “[Johnny] Manziel was a phenomenal college quarterback who obviously won the Heisman as a freshman, but Mike was on the receiving end of nearly one-third of his passing yards in their two years together.

“For every “ooh” there was for one of Manziel’s great passes, there was a collective “ahh” on the receiving end when Mike came down with the extraordinary catch.  Once we did our homework on the character of Mike, it became apparent that he had a chance to be special. His combination of size, play strength, athleticism, speed, hands and competitiveness were rare.”

How rare was his skill set?

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, WR Mike Evans, TE Cam Brate and GM Jason Licht - Photo by Mary Holt/PR

Bucs head coach Dirk Koetter, WR Mike Evans, TE Cam Brate and GM Jason Licht – Photo by Mary Holt/PR

Evans, now in his seventh season with the Buccaneers, has re-written the team’s record book for receivers. And earlier this month in the regular season finale, Evans re-wrote an NFL record becoming the first player in NFL history to begin his career with seven straight 1,000 yards receiving.

The NFL has been playing football for over 100 years. And no player in the time accomplished what Evans has.

That’s pretty rare I would say.

And in the process he has now dethroned Bucs legends like James Wilder, Mike Alstott and Jimmie Giles as the best offensive player in Bucs history. His 61 career receiving touchdowns are now 27 more than Giles and his 62 total touchdowns puts him ahead of Wilder who scored 46 times in his career. And don’t look now, but Alstott’s team record for most total touchdowns in Bucs history is in deep trouble as Evans likely surpasses that number (71) in 2021. And he will overtake Alstott in just his eighth season while Alstott played for 11 years. If Evans were to play 11 seasons for Tampa Bay, at his current pace he would finish with 95 scores. That would put him in 12th place all time in NFL history.

But it’s not just Evans on the field that is impressive. It is also Evans the husband, son, father and example in the community that makes him even more special. Evans started the Mike Evans Family Foundation in December of 2017. The Foundation provides financial assistance for graduating high school students from low-income families in need and supports women and families suffering from domestic violence, along other things.

Evans was no stranger to domestic violence growing up. He witnessed his father abusing his mother and then when Evans was nine, his father was killed in his home by his own brother. To understand Evans’ full story you have to know where his drive comes from. A lot of it came from the pain he saw growing up. In 2016 Evans was featured in an E:60 special (see below) that delved into his past and his ability to rise from a tough childhood to grow into the man he is today.

During his career in Tampa Bay, Evans has caught passes from Josh McCown, Mike Glennon, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick  and now Tom Brady. In that time he has had three different head coach and four different offensive coordinators. He’s lined up on the field next to guys named Robert Herron, Taverres King, Donteea Dye, Josh Huff, Freddie Martino, Bernard Reedy, Bobo Wilson and Ishmael Hyman. Not exactly names that will be drawing a lot of coverage to their side of the field.

Former teammate Adam Humphries, now with the Tennessee Titans, fondly remembers his time playing with Evans in Tampa Bay and the impression he made.

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Adam Humphries - Photo by: Mary Holt/PR

Bucs WRs Mike Evans and Adam Humphries – Photo by: Mary Holt/P

“Mike is such a hard worker and obviously one of the most talented guys in the league, but what really stood out to me was the way he approached practice every day,” Humphries said. “A lot of No. 1 receivers or stars will take reps off, or even days of practice, but Mike never wanted to give up a rep in practice and was always first in all the drills. He just wanted to be great and that really stood out when I got there and during my time with the Buccaneers.”

As a reporter, I don’t get to play favorites. But if I could, Evans would be one of a handful for me. In that hypothetical world Warren Sapp remains my favorite Bucs player I have watched or covered. Lee Roy Selmon would likely be next. But after that I would have to say it is Evans.

From his rookie season with 1,051 yards and 12 scores, to his monster 2018 year that saw him nab 1,524 yards, to this season’s 1,006 yard NFL record-setting year, Evans has displayed consistency regardless of who has been under center throwing him the ball. But as mentioned, it isn’t just the Evans on the field I have enjoyed seeing, it is also how he conducts himself off of it.

In June of 2019 I attended his charity golf tournament that raised money for his foundation and, not wanting to embarrass myself by playing, I agreed to drive the event’s official photographer around with Evans’ group. Evans also didn’t play, but he and his wife went to every single foursome scattered across the course, met with them individually and talked, signed autographs and posed for pictures. I’ve seen players at some of these charity events, including some I helped arrange and promote. Sometimes the first question they ask is – how long do I have to be there and what do I have to do? I get it. Answering the same questions over and over, fake smiling and trying to make conversation can be tough at times.

But when I watched Evans that afternoon, he was different. Everything he did was casual and made the people who paid to play feel welcome and comfortable. Evans and his wife just had conversations with the fans, even to the point where he was getting rushed to hurry up by some of the event organizers. Evans just blended in with his fans – well, as much as a 6-5, 230 pound athlete can blend in – and was just one of the guys.

Bucs WR Mike Evans

Bucs WR Mike Evans – Photo by: Mark Cook/PR

It’s been the same thing at his bowling charity events as well. Evans just mingles, signs autographs and, if you didn’t know who he was, you might assume he is just a guy attending the event as a fan.

When the Buccaneers secured their first playoff berth in 12 years following a late December game against the Lions, the pats on the back went to Lavonte David and some of the older veterans on the team, the coaching staff and even newer players like Brady. But much of the congratulations, hugs and high fives should have been directed at Evans, who has been a warrior in his career for the Buccaneers.

Someone who has played through injury, lame duck seasons going nowhere with pending coaching changes and in half-empty stadiums often in his seven seasons. Yet, in those seven years Evans has been the same guy. We never heard him complain, throw a player or coach under the bus or scream to the media he needed the ball more. He just worked.

And in 2020 he saw his patience and work ethic pay off with a trip to the playoffs.

“It meant a lot. I haven’t been to the playoffs – it was my first time, first game in the playoffs,” Evans said. “I was excited to play, it was great weather [and] we had a great week of preparation. It just meant a lot to be out there and to try to make plays to help my team win. The goal is to do enough each week to play the next week, so that’s what we’re doing this week.”

Cannon Blast

Table of Contents

As mentioned above, Evans and his wife Ashli run the Mike Evans Family Foundation doing great work in the Tampa Bay and Galveston community. From scholarships to providing Christmas for needy children, the Tampa Bay community is fortunate to have Evans as a part of it.

• I never miss the opportunity for some shameless self-promotion. Here is one of my favorite episodes of What’s Cooking and Mike signed a hat that raised $120 for his charity in a Twitter auction we held. Check it out and maybe if this COVID era ever gets contained and life can get back to some sense of normalcy, we can get the camera out again and film some new episodes in the future. You can follow the Pewter Report Youtube channel here and see all of the past episodes along with keeping up with all of the podcasts throughout the week. Make sure you like and subscribe to the page.

Last Laugh

As you know if you are a regular reader of The Hook, I am a huge The Office fan and love to post any NFL memes that tie the two together. This one stings for Steelers’ fans.

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About the Author: Mark Cook

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, the beach and family time.Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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6 months ago

Can’t help to compare Evans to another mercurial receiver at 49er of old called TO. Similar built, TO was stronger. Both can change a game on his own. But Evans was so much stronger mentally; has mind of a warrior, can play hurt, do not much excuses etc. That is very rare. A true team weigh bearing post.
But Mark, Evans has speed? Thought I saw a report that he ran a 4.53 40s and 1.6 sec 10 yd split during the combine, not exactly a burner like Scott Miller who ran 4.33. Maybe he has gone faster since.

Reply to  Eddie
6 months ago

I think with big Mike, it’s more about “football speed”. He’s never going to win a 40 yard dash, but he has those long strides. His physicality to go along with those long strides definitely work getting him open deep.

Reply to  cgmaster27
6 months ago

He also has a big catch radius. Long limbs with good flexibility

Reply to  Eddie
6 months ago

Mike is not quick off the line but once he gets going he moves pretty well. That’s why he is better with mid-range and longer passes. He will drop the occasional throw but is great at contested and 50/50 balls. I think Brady has learned what is the best way to utilize him and why his catch rate is much higher after the bye week.

Reply to  RW
6 months ago

You made a good point on his catch rate, he also reminded me of Jerry Rice of old, any ball thrown to him anywhere close was a completion. Evans was the same. I submit that Evans was playing hurt this entire year, starting with his ankle; but he just kept going. We have not seen the top end of this Brady Evans production yet, we will when he got healed up. Maybe he can go over to Brady’s house and go through some of his health regiment.

Reply to  Eddie
6 months ago

Timed speed and game speed are 2 completely different things. Dude can absolutely move. He’s not Tyreke Hill. But I’ve seen him burn DB’s too many times to count over the years

6 months ago

Let’s not forget that is when Licht reported to Lovie Smith not the other way around. Lovie Smith was a terrible head coach here but he gets the credit for Mike Evans.

6 months ago

Maybe so but he won’t be the guy most likely to win the game at crunch time. After spending the majority of the game dutifully being the premier blocker he is look to Gronk on a seam route when a big gain absolutely, positively is critical.

Reply to  Spruce
6 months ago

Actually I think Brady has confidence in the whole group of receivers. So he will go to whoever is open whether its Evans, Godwin, Brate, AB or Gronk.

Reply to  RW
6 months ago

Exactly! When Brady is at his best, he’s hitting whoever the open man is. Saw plenty of it last week. Brate was constantly left open, so Brady kept hitting him for big gains. Same with Fournette

6 months ago

He’ll of a person. Hell of a player. Hell of a deep threat. We’re truly blessed to have had him for 7 years. Hopefully he’ll be here for 7 more! I’m hoping like hell he toasts Lattimore this weekend!

6 months ago

Great article about a great player. Thanks Mark.

6 months ago

The only two that could compare are Mike Alstott and James Wilder. Wilder was it on some good and awful teams and did well and Alstott was one of a kind

6 months ago

Mike is an asset to this team and our community. He is an example of how an individual can channel life’s disappointments and hardships into something positive. U can let one’s upbringing be a liability or u can channel that despair and heartache into something positive and affect change into the lives of those who less fortunate and from similar environments. We applaud u Mike for ur hard work and determination in making this a better world and using ur life as an example of what one can do when he chooses to be a beacon of light to others!… Read more »

6 months ago

Really nice piece Mark. Easy to see it’s from the heart. I too remember sitting in front of my TV with Mel’s Big Blue Book and a few other relatively worthless publications. After watching a lot of college games that year, I thought Pitt DT Aaron Donald was the absolute top of the class and at the time was hoping Licht would select him. I also liked what I had seen of Mike Evans making “Johnny Football” look better than he turned out to be. ME13 is truly one of the top 5 players in Bucs history and certainly the… Read more »

6 months ago

Evans has been a great player and a great role model.

His demeanor and comfort at fundraisers or with fans was possibly learned from former teammate and NFL Man of the Year recipient Vincent Jackson.

I remember thinking the Bucs offense would be unstoppable with those two guys lining up together. The “Dunkaneers” never quite reached their potential due to offensive coaching ineptitude and subsequent changes, and that’s a shame.