It was 2013 and the Saskatchewan Roughriders had just won the Grey Cup, but Zack Evans was heartbroken.
The Ottawa Redblacks were set to join the CFL the following season and less than a month after the Grey Cup game was played, the league held an expansion draft for the new team. The first round was an import draft, the second and third was reserved for non-imports (Canadians).
Evans, who was born and raised in Regina, was taken in the third-round with the 22nd pick.
“It was terrible,” Evans admitted. “Obviously just winning a Grey Cup and having to move across the country with my family … it shook up my life.”
But after he got over the initial shock, he settled into Ottawa and into a new role as a starter.
Since 2014, Evans has amassed 21 sacks and has blossomed into one of the league’s best defensive tackles.
“I wanted to be that guy, I wanted to that starter and (Ottawa) gave me an opportunity and I took it with stride. I kind of evolved as a presence on the inside as a Canadian so I’m very happy for that,” Evans said.
“Zack, he’s a pro,” said Chris Jones when asked about the 27-year-old on Wednesday. “He’s a guy that very confident in the fact that he’s a good football player, he’s got tremendous technique, he’s got great hands … he’s certainly able to handle himself as good as anybody,” Jones said.
Evans said Jones actively pursued him in free agency and that’s what won him over.
“(The Riders) were the first one to say they wanted me and they wanted me no matter what,” Evans said.
Of course, it didn’t hurt that Evans still considers Saskatchewan home, that his extended family still resides here and he grew up a Rider fan himself. He wants his son to grow up in the same atmosphere.
“Saskatchewan is a whole different beast, honestly. It’s life. Football is life out here,” Evans enthused. “I loved football from (when I was) a little kid and I wanted him to grow up loving football as much as me … just being in that culture and loving football and loving the Riders as much as I did growing up – that’s everything.”
“It’s nice. I look good in green, so I’m happy to be here,” he grinned.
- Jones said he is still considering which players will be coming along to Edmonton and playing in the first preseason game: “It’s going to be a crowded plane, put it that way. None of our guest coaches are going to go and some of our veterans that we’ve evaluated in years past they won’t go.” Jones is also still working out which quarterbacks and how much of each quarterback you will see during that game.
- It was a big day for the defence today with several knockdowns and tips including ones by Willie Jefferson, Derrick Moncrief and Makana Henry.
- Chris Lyles may have had the catch if the day even though he wasn’t on offence. The defensive back laid himself out for an absolutely beautiful interception and managed to stay in bounds.
- Caleb Holley caught a beautiful pass in the back corner of the endzone from Zach Collaros during red zone drills. He also threw a big block during scrimmages that allowed Jordan Williams-Lambert to keep his run going. Williams-Lambert continues to stand out among the new receivers at camp.
- Antwane Grant, Denzel Radford, Micah Teitz and Brandyn Bartlett were all absent from practice Thursday.