Jerod Evans chose to play quarterback for Virginia Tech partly because of the atmosphere surrounding the program.
The excitement he sought will kick into overdrive Saturday night, however, with the Hokies taking on No. 17 Tennessee at Bristol Motor Speedway, a NASCAR racetrack in Bristol, Tenn., which has been converted to a giant football stadium for this game.
Evans, a former Mansfield High School standout, said he and his teammates are ready for the challenge.
“We want to send a message, and we have some hungry guys who have been through two straight 7-6 seasons,” Evans said. “We want to show who we are as a team. As one unit. We all want to prove ourselves. This is a close-knit team, and we don’t let the outside dictate anything to us, whether they think we are going to lose or win.”
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Evans started his career at Air Force, but he suffered an ACL tear in his first season. Then he transferred to Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, where he played the past two seasons. Evans threw for an average of 395.5 yards per game and 38 total touchdowns last year, which led to heavy recruitment. He liked the excitement and potential with the Hokies.
Jerod Evans passed for 1,871 yards and rushed for 717 in his senior season at Mansfield.
“Virginia Tech offered a very stable environment, from the coaches and coordinators, and the atmosphere is unbelievable and family-oriented,” Evans said.
The adversity he faced in working through two transfers helped give Evans the tools to become a leader and starting quarterback for a Power 5 program.
“I applied a lot of the things I learned at the Air Force Academy when I moved here,” Evans said. “When you are new, you have guys who jell with you quickly and others who are still trying to figure out who you are as a person. I had to prove myself to some of the guys. There are so many lessons that I’ve learned along the way, that I would be on the phone forever to explain it all. The ups and downs have helped me become a better man, a better person.”
Last week, Evans became the first Virginia Tech quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a game since Bryan Randall in 2004. The Hokies easily defeated Liberty, 36-13.
“It was exciting to finally do what I love on a big stage again,” Evans said.
Still, Evans knows he must keep improving.
“We have a hell of a defense here at Virginia Tech, and they throw every look at you in practice,” he said. “I struggled a little bit when I came in. I’ve never seen a defense this good, so they have helped me see things so much better. The coaches have worked with me to understand coverages more in-depth than I have anywhere else.”
Tennessee vs. Virginia Tech
7 p.m. Saturday, WFAA/8