MADISON TWP. — Max Evans was surrounded by family and friends Friday afternoon as he announced that his dream of playing Division I college football was becoming reality.
It was a lot for the Madison High School senior to take in.
“I caught myself kind of getting emotional during my signing,” Evans said after making his commitment to East Tennessee State University official. “This is what every kid dreams of doing … it just hit me so hard and then being surrounded by everybody you love, it’s an incredible feeling.”
FOOTBALL SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
The 6-foot-2, 260-pound defensive tackle chose ETSU over Southern Illinois and admitted it was an agonizing decision. He had strong feelings about both.
“Just ping-ponging back and forth in my mind,” Evans said. “It was kind of like I just woke up and had this gut feeling. I was like, ‘East Tennessee, that’s going to be home for me.’ ”
Evans became the second Madison football player to commit to a Division I program (Scott Smith did it in 1991 with Army). He was joined at Friday’s signing by his parents Greg and Julie, along with his sisters Carly and Stella.
Mohawks coach Steve Poff believes Evans will be an immediate impact player with the Buccaneers. They didn’t have a program for more than a decade, but started playing football again in 2015 and went to the FCS playoffs this year.
Madison High School senior Max Evans talks about signing with the East Tennessee State University football program Friday afternoon in Madison’s media center.
“I think their intentions are for him to play right away,” Poff said. “Will he have a lot to learn and a lot to adjust to? Absolutely. It’ll be the best offensive linemen he’s seen in his life. But it’s a good place for him to continue his growth as a football player and as a student and as a man. I feel like he would’ve done well at either school.”
Evans said ETSU found him on Twitter and a meeting was quickly set up with assistant coach Billy Taylor. They had a long talk and made a connection, and a visit to the Johnson City campus followed.
“It’s a beautiful campus,” said Evans, who was also impressed with the depth of experience on the ETSU coaching staff. “You can tell there’s a lot of winning culture down there.”
He went to Southern Illinois the following weekend and enjoyed that visit as well.
“It tore me up a little bit because both schools are great schools,” Evans said. “I think I just had to make a business choice and a business decision, and that’s how I ended up at East Tennessee.”
Madison’s Max Evans poses with his teammates and friends, including second-grader Matt Honhart, during Friday afternoon’s signing ceremony in the high school media center. Evans signed with East Tennessee State University to continue his football career. RICK CASSANO/STAFF
Evans had interest from a number of programs. Poff said he did what he could to aid the recruiting process and spread the word about Evans’ abilities.
“It’s so easy to tell people about Max and who he is,” Poff said. “It doesn’t make him perfect, but he’s got great leadership, a great work ethic, and he’s excited about football. He’s become a giant voice on our team these last couple years. I think he’ll take that with him.
“He’s got great parents. I think that’s one of the things kids don’t see every day, parents who have been married to each other for their entire lives and raise a family together. You look at their family … that’s five people who really love each other. Max learned that at home and brought that to football.”
Poff said he’s looking forward to making a trip to ETSU to see Evans play.
“I’m sure the entire staff will be excited to go down and see that happen,” Poff said. “It’s not like we graduate kids and never see them again. It’s a small community, and every one of my coaches lives here. It means something to us. The kids mean something to us.”
Evans came to Madison in the seventh grade after attending St. John XXIII in Middletown. He said he started playing flag football in kindergarten and tackle football in the third grade.
Madison’s Max Evans signs with the East Tennessee State University football program Friday afternoon in the high school media center as his parents, Greg and Julie, watch. RICK CASSANO/STAFF
The Mohawks felt like they were state championship material this year and won their first 12 games before suffering a bitter loss to Wheelersburg in the Division V, Region 20 final.
Evans said he’ll take the good with the bad and move forward.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to go to high school anywhere else,” he said. “My freshman year a lot of people wanted me to move somewhere and go somewhere bigger so it would help my recruitment. My mom actually said a great thing. She said, ‘If you really think you’re as good as you think you are, they’ll find you.’ I think it’s proved itself true.
“I don’t regret anything about Madison. It’s been probably the best four years I’ve ever had, just the people, the community. We brought a winning tradition to a team that hasn’t had a winning tradition. Building new traditions and everything … it’s unreal. I love Madison Township.”
Evans is considering communications or business for his college major. He doesn’t want to miss the second half of his senior year, so he won’t be enrolling early at East Tennessee State.
Fairfield senior offensive lineman Jacob Hensley will also play for the Buccaneers. He signed with ETSU on Wednesday.