Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


‘Lee’ving it all behind

Beyond the records, the praise, the heartache and the glory of Lee Evans’ college career at UW is a soft-spoken senior who leads with his actions and backs them up with a personality that no one can ignore.

Lee Evans enamored the UW media and student body, arriving as a freshman just wanting to play, becoming a senior just wanting to heal and always portraying a man just wanting to enjoy life.

“Not too long ago, I was looking at some pictures I had from, like, freshman, sophomore year, living at the Towers,” Evans said. “I mean, we’ve done so much and it’s crazy to think how quickly it goes by. We’ve had big water fights at the Towers, on State Street; going to Hawaii and having fun out there. We threw a party one time at the Regent that was crazy. I mean, I could go on and on about memories, parties and road trips.”


A youthful Lee Evans emerged at Wisconsin in 1999 from his home in Bedford, Ohio as one of the top football recruits in the Midwest. When he arrived, however, he was an undersized 18-year-old who hadn’t yet figured out what the rigors of college were all about.

“Coming up here, it was a reality shock of how hard it is to play and what it takes to play, but as the season went on, I became more comfortable with it,” he said. “I was still a freshman, still wide-eyed and energetic and just out there playing.”

One of only two true freshman to don game day pads in 1999, Evans could walk up Bascom Hill in relative obscurity, with the likes of Ron Dayne and Chris Chambers grabbing the weekend spotlight.

“My freshman year, I had a relaxation class. Actually, Ron was in my class, and some of the people in there, they recognized me, and my teacher would make some jokes because I got hurt that season,” Evans said. “A couple [people] would recognize me out and about and things like that, but it really wasn’t until my sophomore year that people really started to recognize me and see some of the plays that I could do, and that’s when it really started.”

Evans began to garner the attention in 2000 that students today are used to providing. The on-field heroics of the sophomore prevailed brightest as he caught a game-winning 45-yard touchdown pass against Michigan State. The catch stands out as one of his biggest thrills in a Wisconsin jersey, but it was his strong performance in the Sun Bowl that year which officially served notice of his skills to a nationwide audience. Evans was still just a sophomore, however, and would go through far brighter and much darker times before graduation.

“Freshman, sophomore year, you’re out having fun on the weekends regardless,” Evans said. “It’s one of those things where you just come out and you just play, and the coaches help get you in line, and as you get older and play a lot more and learn the system and get some game time experience, things slow down a little bit. As a freshman, they move fast and you’re just trying to catch up. As a freshman, it’s tough because it’s a lot harder mentally than it is physically.”

The mental aspect of Evans’ game was helped along throughout his college career after he became roommates with the fraternity of football players he would later consider to be his brothers. That bond between friends may have been Evans’ biggest obstacle in attaining one goal he never could accomplish in his time at UW.

“Unfortunately, I haven’t lived alone, which I’ve been trying to do since I’ve been here,” he said with a laugh. “But it’s all right, though.”

The physical maturity Evans looked to build in his first two years was exemplified in his junior season, when he caught over 1,500 yards of passing and posted nine touchdowns. The hype surrounded him, and the lure of the NFL stared him in the face. The accolades from that season were large, but Evans decided to stay in school. That decision was to be second guessed by many when he suffered a leg injury in spring of 2002. In merely one second of a spring game, his mental maturity would be tested much more than his physical talent. Evans went up for a catch in the Badgers’ spring exhibition game and landed awkwardly, tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. The tear required surgery on May 22 and again on Nov. 22, forcing Evans to redshirt his senior season.

“At the time, it was very traumatizing for me, for my family, and for everybody involved,” Evans said.

November would be a troubling month for Evans. On Nov. 1, 2002, his car was pulled over in Iowa and a bag of marijuana as well as two marijuana cigarettes were discovered by police.

“That situation was a really tough situation, but it’s hard to pinpoint other ones like that,” Evans said about the hardships of college. “You always have your disagreements with people and have your rough times and difficult situations that you’re in. I’ve definitely had my sweet and sour moments here, but overall, looking back, it’s been so much sweeter than sour.”

The sweet moments for Evans have included the ability to enjoy his life as a five-year student at Wisconsin: the chances he says he has had to play video games, eat at Culvers and just kick it with friends.

“After you take the pads off and leave the locker room, you pretty much try to live as normal of a life as you can and do a lot of things other people do,” Evans said.

As he now heads toward the final game of his collegiate career in Nashville on New Year’s Eve, Evans is beginning to look back on the past five football seasons and trying to realize just what he’s done.

“A lot of times, you can’t understand it, going through it, because you’re [living] week to week, trying to win the next game,” he said. “When you’re done and you’re out of there and you can look back and say, ‘Wow, my name is etched in this record book, my face is right here on this record panel,’ it’s definitely a feeling that’s great.”

With all of the accomplishments and memories he has made in Madison, Evans knows what he will miss the most about life as a student at UW.

“The people and the fans, my friends, it’s just a tremendous atmosphere,” he said. “The number of people I’ve met and made relationships with, and football Saturdays. How crazy our fans are, and the atmosphere that it is, is definitely going to be something I’ll miss.”

The first game Evans plays come 2004 will likely be in an NFL uniform, completing a comeback that very few men would have been strong enough to endure. For Evans, life in the limelight has never been a goal, but as he leaves Wisconsin, his image will remain strewn within the UW record books for years to come.

“It’s tremendously special, to leave your name in the record books and to look at some of the things you did in hindsight,” he said. “When you can just look back and see some of the accomplishments that you did, it’s just a great feeling that you were blessed to do that.”

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