May 9, 2010

Evans 7-on-7 attracts Florida's best teams

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

It takes a very special event to get six reigning Florida state football champions on the same field.

The 5th Annual Heath Evans Foundation 7-on-7 is exactly that.

The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 12 at 9 a.m. and will have some of the best team talent in Florida on the field at West Palm Beach King's Academy - where Evans went to high school.

With confirmed participation from Miramar (6A), Tampa Plant (5A), Palm Beach Dwyer (4A), Pensacola (3A), as well as Delray's American Heritage (1A) and Belle Glade's Glades Day (1B) the 16-team field is already one of the best of any 7-on-7 in the nation.

The event, which is invite only, also has confirmed Class 2A finalist Belle Glade (Fla.) Glades Central, Class 3A power Miami (Fla.) Booker T. Washington, and host school, King's Academy.

"The talent we have put together is second to none," Evans said. "It is amazing to see where we are now."

Evans, who is rehabbing a knee injury, said from the event's humble beginnings it has become one of the premier events in the nation, let alone the Sunshine State.

"When we first got this going five years ago we had trouble getting coaches' phone numbers," he said. "We set lofty goals, but even this is remarkable."

Evans said the event is unique in many ways and believes that's what makes it special.

"It is free of charge to participating teams," he said. "We provide them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We get them all together and deliver a message of integrity. It is a different focus than many other football-only events."

Helping deliver the message, in past years, have been several of Evans' NFL friends.

Part of the fun
One of the most enjoyable parts of the Heath Evans 7-on-7 is one that the seven-year NFL veteran won't be able to participate in this season.

As the namesake to the event, Evans has done many special things for the kids involved, including holding an impromptu "Beat the Pro" portion of the day where he ran a 40-yard dash against several members of the gathered talent.

This offseason, Evans is in the middle of rehabilitation from a season ending knee injury, and will have to leave any high school-versus-professional competition to his friends.

Last season, Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker went head-to-head with members of the participating teams in a "Who-can-catch-the-most-punts-without-a-muff," challenge. And Kansas City Chiefs starting quarterback Matt Cassell got into the act as well with a quarterback challenge.

With most NFL Organized Team Activities (OTA) scheduled to end June 10, confirmations for potential NFL players' appearances could not be made.

New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss has been in attendance at each of the previous events. Joining him last year were his teammate, Wes Welker, and Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassell.

"I wanted to do something with the NFL badge I have been blessed to wear," Evans said. "We make sure to let the kids know that there are things that they should do. And many times those things are not the things they necessarily want to do."

Evans, who was a third-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks after his career at the University of Auburn, said the state of Florida is loaded with talent, much of which is never tapped into.

"We have literally hundreds of kids in the state missing the grades or ending up in jail," Evans said. "They just need direction. Sometimes hearing it from someone living the life they want can make a difference."

And while his philosophy may not be universally embraced, Evans is OK with that.

"I tell kids what the odds are, what percentage chance they have at making the NFL," he said. "And then I tell them to work towards it. To set lofty goals. To believe in those dreams.

"I only had me and my parents believing in me. Them, and my faith, were what kept me working towards my dream."

Evans, who is one of the lucky one-percent of NCAA Division I athletes to play in the NFL, also says football can not be an athlete's only focus.

"These kids need to have back-up plans, sure, but that still takes academics," Evans said. "It still takes being a well-rounded individual."

It is part of being the well-rounded individual that was the onus for Evans, and his wife Beth Ann, for starting the Heath Evans Foundation.

Evans' Foundation was formed and is dedicated to fostering hope and healing to children and families affected by sexual abuse.

It is a cause very near to Evans.

"It is an issue I have a passion for," he said. "I have seen the damage it can do in the lives of people who are dear to me and want to take the steps to spread hope and combat the cycle of abuse."

Proceeds from the event, a $5 per person ticket, will benefit the foundation.

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