You won’t find former Tulsa quarterback Dane Evans’ name near the top of any NFL mock draft boards, or even on them at all, in many cases. He wasn’t among the 330 college football players invited to last week’s NFL scouting combine, either.
But there are numbers to back the play he’s been making since he led The Golden Hurricane to a blowout 55-10 win over Central Michigan in the Miami Beach Bowl on Dec. 19, 2016. That win capped a college career that saw Evans rewrite the Tulsa record book under second-year head coach Philip Montgomery, the former Baylor offensive coordinator who brought the highest-flying offensive scheme in the country north of the Red River prior to the 2015 season.
“Every year, about 50 guys that didn’t get a combine invite end up getting a shot in the NFL,” said Gil Brandt, a former Dallas Cowboys personnel director and currently a senior analyst at NFL.com. “Those guys usually don’t get drafted until, at earliest, the mid to late fourth round, and the bulk of them are signed as undrafted free agents.”
Evans prefers to repeat another refrain that takes his goals a step further.
“There were 33 undrafted free agents playing in the Super Bowl this year,” Evans said after a training session last month at Fort Worth athletic training facility APEC.
A quick check of the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots Super Bowl LI rosters confirms Evans’ optimistic outlook.
Tulsa’s Pro Day is Friday. The NFL Draft is April 27-29.
So where others see a long shot, Evans sees his path to the NFL. Evans has based himself in Fort Worth since starting his training Jan. 4 at APEC.
Evans took a redshirt year in 2012 at Tulsa after starring at Sanger, where his father, Damon, was offensive coordinator from 2009-2011.
Before that, Evans lived in Arlington, where his father coached at Arlington Seguin, then moved to Sanger when he was in junior high. Damon Evans is now quarterbacks coach at Arlington Lamar.
At age 23, Evans exudes a sense of maturity that adds a “plus” to his ledger as an NFL prospect. Coming in at just under 6-foot-1, though, he needs as many “pluses” as he can get.
“That was the same thing coming out of high school,” said Evans, whose offer from Tulsa was his one and only Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer after finishing his time at Sanger fifth all time in passing yards in Texas high school football history (9,074 yards).
“All the teams that communicate with my agent say I throw the ball well, I have a quick release, and it’s all NFL-ready. The only knock on me is my height,” he said.
Evans has signed on with the Steinberg Sports Group. He said that “eight or nine” teams had contacted his individual agent, Chris Cabott, about his prospects as an NFL player. Most of those contacts came after Evans’ participation in the NFL Regional Draft Combine in Houston on Feb. 18.
Though his workouts weren’t on the national stage of last week’s NFL Scouting Combine, it was his first chance to get in front of some of the people he hopes to impress on his way to a roster spot.
“Being able to show what I can do at Pro Day is going to be big for me,” Evans said. “I’ve already improved three-tenths of a second on the [40-yard dash], but I want to shave another tenth off my time. And I threw it pretty well to four or five guys I didn’t know at the regional combine, but it’s going to be really good to get back with four or five guys that I threw to at Tulsa for five years, and doing NFL routes at Pro Day.”
The drills and measurements taken at the Combine and at Pro Day workouts can’t be taken alone, in a vacuum, as predictors of success. But what Evans’ throwing speed, clocked at 63 mph by APEC staff, does show is that his height doesn’t at all limit his arm strength.
The Scouting Combine began keeping track of throwing speed in 2008, and has never seen a throw clocked that fast.
That arm strength is something his high school coach Chuck Galbreath, who retired as Sanger’s head football coach after the 2016 season, saw in 2007, when Evans was an eighth-grader. The Evans family had just moved from Arlington as Damon Evans climbed up the coaching ranks in Texas high school football.
“Seeing Dane play eighth-grade football, we knew right away he was a special talent,” Galbreath said. “He had a great release, a very strong arm, and his accuracy was well advanced beyond what I had seen out of any eighth-grader before or since. I made it very well-known that Dane would be a once-in- a-career talent.”
Galbreath still serves as Sanger’s athletic director.
Damon Evans was Galbreath’s offensive coordinator for five seasons, three of which came with young Evans behind center. He was a two-time Class 3A All-State selection and twice won his district’s offensive MVP honors under Galbreath and his father’s tutelage.
Damon Evans took a step back in his own career, so he could free up his weekends and go watch his son play, once he moved on to Tulsa. Damon Evans coaches quarterbacks and the ninth-grade team at Arlington Lamar, though he said that with his son out of college, he plans to see about once again moving in the direction of a head coaching position. Dane’s mother, Kathy, teaches at Dunn Elementary School.
Evans has already come quite a way in his quest for one of the most exclusive jobs in the country — NFL quarterback.
“I didn’t even think I’d play in college until after my sophomore year in high school,” Evans said. “But this has always been the dream, the goal in your head that sometimes you don’t like to vocalize out loud.
“As last season wound down and as I’ve started to prepare, it becomes real very quickly. It becomes work, and now, six days a week, making a life in the NFL has become my job.”
Matthew Martinez; 817-390-7760; @MCTinez817
Here’s a look at quarterback Dane Evans’ statistical profile in high school and college:
Sanger High School
9,074 passing yards
63.3 percent completion
96 passing touchdowns
University of Tulsa
11,680 passing yards*
57.3 percent completion
84 passing touchdowns*
1,577 pass attempts*
* Tulsa school records