NEW YORK — Mike Evans’ life changed forever in the span of six selections and 59 minutes.
The Ball High grad and Texas A&M All-American wide receiver was selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the seventh overall pick of the National Football League draft on Thursday night, becoming the sixth player from Galveston County to be chosen in the first round.
“It hit just so fast,” a very emotional Evans told NFL Network’s Deion Sanders shortly after being picked. “It’s a great moment for me. I can’t wait to get to Tampa. It’s a great city and I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates.”
Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said the team had entertained offers for their pick, but was committed to making sure they added Evans.
“He was our guy all along,” Licht said. “We felt very comfortable with him. We spent a lot of time with him and had him targeted all along.”
“I know we added a good football player that will help us win a lot of games,” Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith said during a press conference Thursday night. “We hi-fived it when we made that pick.”
Evans is projected to make $14,631,502 over the four years of his original contract, with a signing bonus of $8,961,092.
After redshirting as a freshman, Evans caught 82 passes for 1,105 yards and five touchdowns in 2012 before exploding on the national scene last season, as he pulled in 65 receptions for 1,322 yards and 12 touchdowns while also leading all FBS receivers with 20.5 yards per catch.
He will be formally introduced to the Buccaneers’ fans and media when he arrives in Tampa today.
Evans joins La Marque’s Norm Bulaich (Colts, 1970), former Heisman Trophy winner Andre Ware from Dickinson (Lions, 1990), La Marque’s James Francis (Bengals, 1990), Ball’s Patrick Bates (Raiders, 1993) and Ball’s Michael Holmes (San Francisco, 1973), Charles Alexander (Cincinnati, 1979), Eric Hill (Arizona, 1989) and Casey Hampton (Steelers, 2001) as locals selected in the first round.
“He’s a good player,” Francis said of Evans. “He’s got good size and strength for a receiver. His biggest challenge will be having to deal with cornerbacks who are going to try to jam him at the line of scrimmage.”
The 6-foot-5 Evans will team up with fellow 6-foot-5 wideout Vincent Jackson, who is a three-time Pro Bowler with 422 career receptions.
“I’m excited to learn a lot of things from him,” Evans said. “I can’t wait to work with him and start to take the pressure off of him as well.”
Francis, who played 11 years with the Bengals and Redskins, also knows that Evans’ on-field success will be determined by how he handles himself away from the playing field.
“He’s going to have to surround himself with people who are not afraid to tell him no,” Francis said. “He will need people in his circle that’s not going to be afraid to tell him when he’s doing something stupid.”
Evans was one of three Texas A&M players selected in the first round. Offensive tackle Jake Matthews was chosen with the sixth pick by the Atlanta Falcons, while quarterback Johnny Manziel, the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner, was chosen by the Cleveland Browns with the 22nd pick.
Hitchcock’s Michael Sam, who could become the first openly gay player in the NFL, is not expected to be selected until the final three rounds on Saturday, but the former Missouri defensive end and 2013 Southeastern Conference co-Defensive Player of the Year did notch his first endorsement deal on Thursday when he signed with Visa.
“We felt that Michael’s story was a perfect fit for our ‘everywhere’ campaign, which is meant to inspire people to reach their own personal goals and aspirations,” Visa chief marketing officer Kevin Burke said.
“We’ve been really selective in trying to find the right partners,” Cameron Weiss, Sam’s agent and attorney, said. “We couldn’t be more pleased to start with a world class company like Visa.”