Two months after the 2011 NFL Draft, and nearly four months after NFL owners locked out the players, undrafted rookies like former Virginia Tech running back Darren Evans have either signed or are close to signing free agent contracts with NFL teams.
Earlier this week, the NFL lockout ended and as a result, seven former Hokie football players have either signed contracts or are on the verge of signing with NFL teams. Evans, an Indianapolis native, has perhaps the best story as he is heading home to try and earn a spot with the Indianapolis Colts. Yesterday on his Twitter feed, he wrote:
“Never been more proud to be from Indianapolis than I am right now…I’ll take the hometown kid title and run wild bc I’m a #Colt”
Evans was a PARADE All-American coming out of Warren Central High School and was voted Indiana’s Mr. Football in his senior year with 94 percent of the votes across the state.
Tight end Andre Smith will head to the northern midwest as well, as the Chicago Bears inked him to a free agent deal. Meanwhile, defensive linemates Steven Friday (DE) and John Graves (DT) will join their teammate Rashad “Rock” Carmichael in Houston with the Texans, while defensive back Davon Morgan will head to a defensive juggernaut in the New York Jets. Beau Warren, a fixture at center for the last three years for the Hokies, will get a shot with the St. Louis Rams and punter Brian Saunders heads south to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Evans played only two full seasons at Tech, but spent four years on the team. He redshirted in 2007, then started nine games in 2008 as a redshirt freshman. It was a breakout season for the 2006 EA SPORTS National High School Player of the Year as he rushed for 1,265 yards – a new freshman record at Tech. His breakout game was against Maryland during a Thursday night ESPN game, in which he established a new school record with 253 yards rushing against the Terps. During that game, he demonstrated his toughness with a devastating hit on a Terps defender.
Evans, 22, missed the entire 2009 season with a knee injury suffered during non-contact drills in the summer. Redshirt freshman Ryan Williams stepped in broke Evans’ freshman rushing record. Both backs returned for the 2010 season and while Evans didn’t reach the 1,000-yard mark, he still managed 854 yards and 11 touchdowns while sharing the load with Williams and sophomore phenom David Wilson.
After this week’s free-agent signings, there are now 10 former Hokies from last year’s team getting a shot in the NFL. During the April 2011 draft, three Hokies had their names called; Ryan Williams (Arizona Cardinals), Rashad Carmichael (Houston Texans) and Tyrod Taylor (Baltimore Ravens).