After a year off from hosting a free summer football camp because of the coronavirus pandemic, Tampa Bay wide receiver superstar and Ball High alumnus Mike Evans returned to Galveston to host his annual football camp June 26.

After everyone had to wait two years for Evans to return to his hometown, it made his presence that much sweeter. Anyone who knows anything about Evans’ story knows how much he deeply cares for the community that raised him.

“This city made me who I am, and I’ll never forget it,” Evans told Daily News Sports Editor James LaCombe. “I’ll always help as long as I’m here.”

Before 2021’s camp, I attended the 2019 camp. I can attest to the fact of how much his presence lights up the children’s faces and how much Evans enjoys being around the children. He teaches them not only football skills but life skills as well.

“We always have fun making lifelong connections with these kids,” Evans said. “Hopefully, we can change somebody’s life. If I could change one person’s life, that would be awesome. That’s why I do it.”

While professional athletes can — and sometimes deserve — the rap of not being the best role models for children, Evans is the exact opposite. He is an amazing example of a positive role model for children.

Of course, this is no surprise.

Evans attended Pittsburgh Steeler defensive lineman and Galveston native Casey Hampton’s camps, and he had positive experiences from those camps.

“I always dreamed of doing this ever since I was a kid,” Evans said. “I said if I ever made it pro in a sport, I’d have a camp in my hometown and give back like Casey Hampton used to.”

Now, Evans is continuing to give back like Hampton used to give back to his community. It’s not just the free summer football camp that the Mike Evans Family Foundation does to give back to his Galveston community. The foundation, which focuses on empowering youth, encouraging education and taking a stand against domestic violence, also donated $50,000 to the United Way of Galveston in March to aid locals affected by the freeze and widespread power outages.

Even on the National Football League level, Evans was recognized for his work off the field. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers nominated him for the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award.

In the past season on the football field, Evans became a Super Bowl champion, and he etched himself into the record books for becoming the first player in NFL history to compile more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons. Even with all the accolades, it’s his off-the-field moments that makes Evans a special person.

Evans continues to the lead way when it comes to professional athletes helping out their communities off the field, and he deserves recognition for him and his foundation’s continuous and tireless efforts of raising the bar to a higher level in helping out his hometown community.

Keenan Betz: 409-683-5237, keenan.betz@galvnews.com or on Twitter @surebetkeenan.

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