Prairie Ridge senior Shane Evans could have called his future college football coach to commit, but chose instead to do so in person.
Evans, a four-year starter at offensive tackle, rode with his parents, Matt and Nancy, to DeKalb on Wednesday after the Wolves’ practice and told Northern Illinois University head coach Rod Carey and offensive line coach Joe Tripodi he would join the Huskies.
Evans (6-foot-4, 300 pounds) will finish his graduation requirements early and enroll at NIU in January, which will allow him to participate in spring practices and get a jump on his freshman season.
“I liked the family atmosphere there,” Evans said. “I felt like they treat their players right.”
Playing 50 minutes from home was one consideration for Evans. Also, the Huskies (6-0) currently are ranked No. 23 in The Associated Press poll and played in a BCS Bowl last year, losing to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.
And Evans had former high school teammate Sean Folliard, a freshman linebacker playing on special teams, on whom to lean for advice.
“I’ve talked to Sean a lot about everything from school work to dealing with other things,” Evans said. “That was one of the big factors in me making that decision, knowing a lot about everything and the school.”
NIU has another local player, Marian Central offensive lineman Scott Taylor, who is a redshirt freshman.
Evans became a starter as a freshman and was part of the offensive line that paved the way for the Wolves’ 2011 Class 6A state championship. He was a Northwest Herald All-Area selection last season and is a two-way starter for the 3-4 Wolves this season.
“There couldn’t have been a better situation for him,” Wolves coach Chris Schremp said. “He’s going to a top-25 program, he’s close to home, he has a couple younger brothers he’s close to, and he really liked the coaches. [The coaches] really impressed me as genuine guys. You felt you could trust what they said. And he has an ‘in’ with Sean Folliard there.”
When NIU offered to Evans in January, it was his first of many. By the summer, he pared his list to four schools – NIU, Cincinnati, Toledo and Western Michigan.
“Northern told me they wanted me, but they didn’t press me every week,” Evans said. “They showed they wanted me, but they took their time.”
Evans watched what Folliard did by leaving early and wanted to follow that plan. He is taking an extra English class this semester that will allow him to finish early.
“When Sean did that, I decided that would be something I wanted to do,” Evans said.