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Evans Has Giant Shot At Defensive Line:

2007 Football Notre Dame 9/7/07

From Ralph Vacchiano:

Maurice Evans (48) is seeking redemption and is trying to latch on with the Giants.

Maurice Evans swears he doesn’t think much about what could have been in his life, but it had to be on his mind at least a little on draft day when the Buffalo Bills made Aaron Maybin the No. 11 pick.

Maybin, after all, was once a backup defensive end at Penn State, slotted behind the Brooklyn-born Evans. And Evans, fresh off a 12-1/2-sack season in 2007 as a sophomore, was the one who looked like the budding star. But that was before campus police responded to a complaint about loud music coming from Evans’ apartment last September, found some pot and charged him and a teammate with minor possession of marijuana.

Evans, the former Christ the King star, was suspended by Joe Paterno for the first three games of the 2008 season. Maybin, his replacement, never looked back.

Now, the 6-1, 274-pound Evans, once one of the brightest defensive end prospects in the country, is an undrafted free agent trying to stick with the Giants, while Maybin likely will wind up getting a five-year deal worth more than $20 million with the Bills. If Evans sticks with the Giants, he’ll make $310,000 this season, but his three-year contract is not guaranteed.

It’s hard to imagine the 20-year-old not looking at Maybin’s life, thinking, “That could have been me.”

“It could have been,” Evans said. “You never know the way things would’ve turned out. But I got my foot in the door, he got his foot in the door, and it’s all about earning a spot now. First-round picks have to earn (their) spot the way that a person in my position does. So it’s all fine and it’s all good.”

The truth, of course, is that Maybin is all but guaranteed a roster spot with the Bills, and probably even a starting job. Evans is battling for the slim hope that he’ll stick on a roster already loaded with seven starting-caliber defensive linemen, including three ends. Barring injuries to a player or two in front of him on the depth chart, his best hope might be to stick on the Giants’ practice squad.

Evans would’ve laughed at that notion after the 2007 season, when he was a finalist for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation’s best collegiate defensive end. He was eighth in the country with 12-1/2 sacks. And he had 21-1/2 tackles for losses, too – fifth-best ever at Penn State.

But his suspension opened the door for Maybin to shoot up draft boards with a 12-sack season, while Evans had only three in a reserve role. With Maybin bound for the pros, everyone assumed Evans would return to Penn State for his senior season. Instead, Evans decided to take his shot at the NFL, too.

“We came to an agreement that was the best fit, and I’ve never looked back,” Evans said. “To this day I have no regrets. I’m happy to be where I’m at now and I’m happy with the decision that I made.”

After he was passed over in the draft, Evans chose the Giants over Tampa Bay, Detroit and, ironically, Buffalo, where he would’ve backed up Maybin again. Clearly the chance to stay close to home was a major factor, especially given the Giants’ obvious depth on the defensive line. And he has caught the early eye of Tom Coughlin, who said Sunday that Evans “has done pretty well” at the weekend rookie camp.

But that’s only the first small step in what figures to be a long road for Evans – a much tougher one than the road he ceded to Maybin.

“You just have to earn a spot now,” Evans said. “At the end of the day I’ve got my foot in the door and I have a second opportunity to compete.”

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