DeKALB – Sean Evans doesn’t seem like the type to brag.
He’s soft-spoken and polite. His words come with a dose of humility. There are no signs of a swollen ego.
But standing in the Yordon Center on Thursday morning, Evans had just finished discussing his opportunity this spring and his satisfaction over the way things have progressed so far when Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren walked up.
“Don’t get a big head,” Doeren said, smiling while he patted Evans on the back.
Evans had already taken his coach’s advice. With each answer, he stepped away from the tape recorder, like someone allergic to attention. But if there was ever a time for Evans to get a big head, it has been this spring.
And if there was ever a practice to do it, it was this one.
In the first spring practice dominated by NIU’s offense, Evans was the bright spot for the Huskies’ defense. He intercepted two passes on consecutive plays, running both back for touchdowns. It was the signature moment in what has been a successful spring for the redshirt sophomore.
Doeren recognized the significance.
“The first couple of days he broke up a couple passes and dropped a couple picks,” Doeren said. “We keep talking about capitalizing when you put yourself there, and he did it twice in a row for touchdowns. From the defense’s standpoint, there’s no bigger play than when you score touchdowns.
“I’ve been proud of the way he’s been competing, but now to see him finishing is huge. It’s a step in the right direction for Sean.”
Evans isn’t getting a big head, because he knows how difficult it is to find success.
This spring has been a 180-degree turnaround from last year, when mononucleosis dragged Evans behind before he had a chance to begin. Drained of his energy, and buried at a position full of experience, Evans was unable to get a full set of reps.
He said the experience taught him how important every practice is, especially in the spring.
“You’re not promised another play with this game, the way things go,” Evans said. “So you just want to focus, and (have good) technique, and just give all you have every single play.”
Evans has gotten almost exclusively second-team reps, not that he’s paying attention to that anyway. He said his only goal is to keep getting better, keep taking advantage of opportunities when they come.
But at NIU’s thinnest position, Evans should get playing time in the fall. At the very least, his development is key to the Huskies’ cornerback depth currently teetering on non-existent.
“I call him a production magnet,” cornerbacks coach Richard McNutt said. “To make two back-to-back plays, that was very impressive. When a kid does that, you start to expect it. That’s the kind of standard we’re going to hold him to, to continue to do stuff like that.”
Evans doesn’t mind the pressure. He’s not the type to brag, but that doesn’t mean he lacks confidence. He’s already meeting his goals.
“I would put myself in the opportunity, but I wouldn’t always seal the deal,” Evans said. “That’s been one of my biggest goals for this spring, was to seize the moment and take advantage of the opportunity.
“Today, I was in the right place at the right time.”
Nope, not a big head at all.