Evans Adonis still remembers how awful the move back to Chicago from his native Florida was in the winter of January, 2014
He didn't have an apartment lined up. He was prepared to start his job in premier sales and service with the Chicago Cubs. The former Northern Illinois wide receiver and special teams player (2004-2008) was returning to the region he called home for approximately six years.
“It was awful," Adonis said. "Everything in my truck froze. It was just bad.”
But it wasn't all bad.
Adonis settled into a role he enjoyed with the Cubs and reconnected with someone close from his past.
“Chicago’s a great city, especially from May to September," Adonis said. "It was good. It taught me a lot. That was when I learned a lot about the premium side of then world, high end revenue, high-end dollars for clients in the market. That propelled me to start my leadership career and led me to the Charlotte Hornets afterward. I owe Chicago a lot."
That close person, Nyika, who was on the same floor as him his freshman year at Northern Illinois, is now his wife.
“We just knew each other and toward the end of my freshman year, getting ready to move out, that’s when we connected," Adonis said.
After originally staying at NIU after getting his undergrad degree in Sales & Marketing from the Barsema College of Business, Adonis worked toward a master's degree in sports management, completed an internship in sales with NIU Athletics and was a marketing assistant with NIU Athletics for a little over a year. He then ventured out to a new career venture in Dallas, Texas, where he and Nyika parted ways for that time being. They reconnected when Adonis moved to Chicago, making yet another thing that went his way when he returned to the region.
“Playing football and working at the NIU Athletic Department and going through the business program and my sports management program, all of it combined taught me a lot about time management, being responsible, being organized, and being strategic," Adonis said.
Now, Adonis is leading others while working as the Director of membership sales for the Miami Marlins Major League Baseball team.
Adonis said he leads a team of five in membership sales and 15 in inside sales, a number he says he hopes he's a part of growing. He wants Marlins Park, where the team plays, to become a "full destination" set, a place that can be a multi-purpose venue, holding concerts and other large gathering. But that growth has to start from the standpoint of getting more people in the park.
“Our main goal is to get more people in the ballpark, sell season tickets, group ticket sales, suite sales and all those different areas.”
Originally from Miami, where former Huskies coach Joe Novak recruited Adonis on an in-home visit, Adonis has had the chance to settle down in a way.
Adonis said Novak's genuine and caring nature showed in the recruiting visit, one that registers with him to this day, and leads to him recalling his scholastic and playing days fondly.
"He (Novak) led a team that a lot of people didn’t count on, a lot of people didn’t respect," Adonis said. "He led a bunch of guys that nobody wanted essentially and took those guys and made them beat them champs and made them beat some of the biggest teams out there … We did it with nothing really. We didn’t do it with much. We did it with old school hard work, paying attention to detail and we outworked people.”
That background provides much of the fuel that created the habits that Adonis credits for his professional career. Adonis held two different jobs in sales with the National Football League's Miami Dolphins before arriving with the Marlins in August of 2018.
“Miami’s been great, it’s been a great city," Adonis said. "The Marlins, we’ve gone through a lot of change and going through different processes to try and get it right."
Adonis was referring to the ownership group, led by New York Yankees Hall of Famer Derek Jeter, that purchased the Marlins in 2017 before Adonis switched over from the Dolphins to the Marlins.
Stops in Dallas, Jacksonville, Chicago and Charlotte all paved the way back to Miami.
"It was pretty cool to bounce around to different cities and work for different teams and earn different strategies, different processes, learn different markets," Adonis said. "Ultimately being from Miami originally before I got to NIU, coming back home and being around to family, it’s pretty cool. I never tried to honestly. I was just trying to grow and grow my career. I learned early on I would need to move out in order to move up. I was consistently doing that.”
Adonis, who said he connected well with both older and younger teammates in his time at NIU, also credits his networking abilities and decision-making in surrounding himself with the right people to what he learned at NIU. A season ticket holder for football, he said he's hopeful to get to a game in 2020 or maybe a bowl game. He's already excited about NIU's road game at Georgia Tech in 2021.
With the uncertain times that lay ahead with public health in a precarious position with the Coronavirus causing the MLB season to be pushed back into at least May, he has one thing to look forward to outside of work.
He and Nyika are expecting their first child in May.