Howard cornerback Omar Evans spent much of the summer working out at a feverish pace. He watched hours of videotape, hit the weights hard and even sent tapes to and spoke with high school teammate Shawn Springs, now with the Seattle Seahawks.
Evans wanted a senior season that would draw NFL scouts' attention, and he's gotten his wish. The former Springbrook High running back has been a bright spot for a young defense that has struggled as Howard has gone 2-5, including losses in its past three games. The 6-foot, 190-pound Evans leads the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference with four interceptions and has become one of its top cornerbacks.
Evans knew he would be under considerable pressure as the only player in Howard's defensive backfield with any meaningful playing experience. He has started since his sophomore year and said he is working at staying focused even though Howard is off to its worst start in eight years.
"I wanted this to be a special year, and I'm playing real good football right now," Evans said. "I think there is a lot of disappointment as far as this team goes. You'd always like to go out with a bang."
Howard defensive backfield coach Neal Downing said Evans's relentless work ethic has rubbed off on the younger players, especially his determination to play hard even though the team's postseason hopes are gone.
"He comes to practice every day trying to get better, and he pushes the younger guys," Downing said. "We have some players that have given up, some seniors, but Omar is not one of them. He's a competitor."
Evans made two interceptions against Towson and two against Texas Southern. A group of seven players leads Division I-AA with five interceptions, and Evans is part of another large group tied with four.
He draws the opponents' toughest receivers in every game. He has given up some big plays for touchdowns, but he has contained his men most times. Evans shut out Jackson State's Sylvester Morris in the second half of the season opener. He also limited Florida A&M's Division I-AA all-American Jacquay Nunnally to four catches and held Texas Southern's Joey Jamison to two.
Jamison beat Evans on an 84-yard touchdown reception, but Evans evened the score with an interception shortly thereafter. Evans then did such a good job on Jamison that Texas Southern's coaches eventually moved him to running back.
"I've never played running back before," Jamison said. "They tried to get me the ball any way [they could]."
Evans also has become the defensive backfield's unofficial on-field coach. And sophomore Brian McDonald and freshman Vontrae Long are two of the young players who have prospered under his guidance. McDonald said Evans's prodding and pushing is making him better.
"On every play, he goes as hard as he can," McDonald said. "He goes all out and gives everything he can."
Evans's next goal is to join Springs and former Howard teammate Chris Rogers, now with the Minnesota Vikings, in the NFL. Howard Coach Steve Wilson, who played defensive back in the NFL, said Evans can play in the pros.
"Omar is considered one of the best defensive backs not only in our conference but in I-AA football," Wilson said. "He's a tremendous athlete [and] he's going to have an opportunity to compete at the next level."
CAPTION: With four interceptions this season, Howard's Omar Evans is trying to garner the attention of the NFL.