By Tyler Devine
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa defensive end Joe Evans was watching his teammates practice recently when head coach Kirk Ferentz nonchalantly informed Evans that he had been put on scholarship.
Evans’ first reaction was to think about his parents, who he said sacrificed a lot for him to get to this point.
“They’ve been with me through everything,” Evans said. “They let me go after my dreams. That was my initial thought. And then my next thought was to thank every coach here. They gave me the opportunity to come here and showcase my skills.
“My parents live in Iowa City, my dad works in Tipton. I was actually able to go over to my parents and tell them in person and that’s an experience and feeling I’ll never forget.”
Evans’ journey from walk-on linebacker to scholarship defensive end started almost out of necessity during his first spring practice in 2018 when Iowa was struggling with injuries on the defensive line.
Since then, Evans has become a key contributor to Iowa’s pass rush, mostly on third-down.
Six of Evans’ 14 career tackles have been for a loss, five of them sacks, and he has been credited with four quarterback hurries in 2020.
“I remember coach Wallace coming into the meeting and he drew up the defensive ends’ numbers,” Evans said. “We had like three defensive ends left and the others were out with injuries. He said, ‘What do you guys think that means?’. And we were like one of us is probably going to have to start playing defensive end.
“He called a couple of us to stay after and I got lucky to have my name called, just wishing for an opportunity. I was able to play defensive end during spring ball. I started playing decent, pretty well and it just stuck with me ever since.”
The 6-foot-2, 248-pound Evans, who grew up in Ames, credited former defensive line coach Reese Morgan for giving him the opportunity to play for the team that he grew up rooting for, which he described as the best place for a walk-on to be.
Evans also praised defensive coordinator Phil Parker for his development on and off the field, and said he believes Parker is the best defensive coach in the country.
“I never got treated differently here,” Evans said. “Being a walk-on, being on scholarship, you don’t even know who is on scholarship or who is a walk-on. From my aspect, I knew I needed to develop as a player, so I knew Iowa was going to be my number one school. I grew up an Iowa fan, so I knew if coach Morgan came in the office I was going to come (to Iowa).”
Evans got to share the moment with sophomore fullback Monte Pottebaum and junior receiver Charlie Jones who also were put on scholarship the same day.
“All three of those guys have done a great job,” Ferentz said. “Really proud of the way they’ve worked.”