With so much attrition and so much adversity and so much coaching turnover for the Texas Longhorns over recent years, the last several senior classes have been made up of the survivors. In this year's senior class, no other player exemplifies perseverance more than cornerback Sheroid Evans, who hasn't appeared in a game since tearing his ACL against Iowa State in 2013.
Last year, after suffering another season-ending knee injury in practice, the Sugarland product had a decision to make -- move on with life after football or keep working to have one last chance to fulfill the potential that made him a top-100 prospect in the 2011 class and the No. 3 safety by 247Sports.
Evans chose to keep fighting.
"He was all in," head coach Charlie Strong said Thursday. "He came to me and said 'Hey Coach, I'd like to come back.' It was after the injury last year and he said he was going to rehab, he was going to work hard, and wanted to come back."
Even with so much young talent heading to campus in the 2015 class, Strong didn't hesitate in expressing his support for a player he never recruited and barely had a chance to coach.
"I would love for you to come back," Strong replied.
Now a year removed from his knee injury, Evans is back on the field and practicing, even flashing in work against sophomore wide receiver John Burt during the team portion of Thursday's practice, deflecting a pass that senior safety Kevin Vaccaro intercepted.
However much all the injuries have taken a toll on the 6'1, 194-pounder physically, he clearly still has something left.
In flashing back to his high school days, it's easy to see why -- Evans was a standout performer in track and field at Dulles, posting the nation's fastest 200m time (20.82) and fourth-fasted 100m time (10.39) in 2010. He won the 200m and 400m in the National Scholarship Championships that year and competed at the IAFF World Junior Championships.
Unfortunately, injuries marred his senior season, costing him five games. When he arrived at Texas as part of the top-five 2011 recruiting class, he spent two years as a reserve behind older players and missed four games as a sophomore due to a leg injury, then finally looked ready to emerge as a junior with an impressive fall camp and a career-high six tackles against New Mexico State in the opener.
Instead, for the third time in four seasons, Evans suffered an injury setback, the most significant of his football career, and it cost him the entire 2014 season.
But all of that adversity and all of that time spent under different coaches has given him some wisdom and some perspective. He's the oldest player on the team and goes about his business without drawing much attention to himself, earning the respect of his head coach in the process.
"Well I just like the way Sheroid has bounced back and how he just comes out and works and doesn't say nothing, and puts in his time," Strong said.
Evans isn't entirely silent, though, as he's stepping into the void created by the departure of Duke Thomas, the leader in the secondary last year who was the coach on the field for all the young cornerbacks. Without any other senior cornerbacks on the team and junior Antwuan Davis hardly in a position to take on that role, it's fallen to Evans to mentor young players like Holton Hill, Davante Davis, Kris Boyd, and John Bonney.
"The thing you like about him is that he is so good with the younger guys," said the Texas head coach. "He's just trying to stand out there and coach them and make sure they're in the right spots."
Of course, Evans hasn't spent the last two and a half years working his way back from those knee injuries just to become a student assistant -- there's a reason he's still on the active roster. He still wants to play football. He can still play football.
"He's out there competing right now," Strong said. "For someone to be off two years and watch him come back and do what he's doing -- it's been fun to watch him, it really has."
Hill and Davis likely have the boundary and field spots locked down and Evans isn't a candidate to play in the nickel, so he'll almost certainly have to accept a back-up role. But with so many Big 12 teams using four wide receivers at times, the sixth-year senior is in a position to become the dime cornerback and could be the first cornerback to spell the starters if he can perform at his pre-injury level.
Even if he doesn't and even if his body lets him down once again as it has so many times in the past, he'll still provide value to the team through his leadership and the example of his hard work rehabilitating.
And maybe, just maybe, Evans is another Jordan Hicks-esque success story just waiting to happen. After all, he's a survivor, too.