Commentary | Mike Evans is the perfect fit for Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Lovie Smith

Unlike Manziel, Evans appreciates climb to pro football

adell@bradenton.comMay 14, 2014 

TAMPA

Lovie Smith loves intangibles.

The Tampa Bay Bucs head coach prefers players who have a leaning toward religion, have overcome obstacles and will be a positive influence in the locker-room.

If they come from Texas, that's even better.

You might say he likes people who mirror himself.

Now there has to be talent, especially in a first-round pick.

All those factors played a role in Smith making Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans, the Bucs' first pick in the NFL Draft last weekend.

There was disappointment in some circles that Smith didn't choose Evans' teammate, quarterback Johnny Manziel.

Smith said Manziel should have a good career in the NFL, but Evans fits a need.

He also fits the Lovie Smith persona. Manziel would've been hard to squeeze in.

Evans comes from humble beginnings and has had to fight for everything growing up in the poor side of Galveston, Texas.

Evans was 9 years old when his father was murdered. His mother was 14 when she gave birth to him.

Evans said he became the man of the house after his father's death, taking care of his brother and sister.

He became a father nearly two years ago with a little girl.

Smith grew up in Big Sandy, Texas, a town of 1,200.

His house is burned down, and there is little to nothing remaining on the street where he grew up.

It doesn't matter to Smith.

"Those are my roots. That's where I grew up. Most of who I am today came from that street. There's no other place I would want a sign with my name on it," he said years ago, prior to taking the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl.

Smith grew up poor. His mother worked multiple jobs, and his father battled alcoholism.

There is a story that Smith's success moving up the NFL coaching ladder eventually led to his father, Thurman, getting off alcohol and staying alive longer than most expected.

Evans' father never got to see him play college or high school football, but his death had a big influence in his life.

"When my father died, I started playing everything with an edge because I wanted him to be proud of me. He's up there looking down on me now, and I just used that as motivation, my father," Evans said.

Smith never used the word lie in his house because the family considered it a curse word.

His mother, Mae Smith, suffered from diabetes and lost her sight, but she didn't allow it to stop her from following her son's career and knowing all his players. She died in 2011.

Manziel snapped his fingers when he was selected by the Cleveland Browns; Evans wept while cradling his baby girl in his arms when he was chosen.

All along, Evans said he wanted the Bucs to draft him and prayed they wouldn't change their mind. Smith answered his prayers while trying not to show any preference.

Evans seemed apologetic about crying.

"You saw me kind of crying like a little baby. I didn't expect to do that, but realizing my dreams coming true, it finally hit me. I'm just really happy to be a Buc," he said.

You can bet Lovie Smith saw those tears as a sign of strength and commitment.

Alan Dell, Herald sports writer, can be reached at 941-745-7056. Follow him on Twitter @ADellSports.

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