You can take the B.O.I. out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the B.O.I.
Fresh off February’s Super Bowl LV victory, a single-season career high of 13 touchdown receptions and becoming the first player in NFL history compile more than 1,000 receiving yards in each of his first seven seasons, Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver and Ball High School alumnus Mike Evans was back at his roots in Galveston on a sweltering Saturday morning at Spoor Field to lead his annual free football camp for local children.
“This city made me who I am, and I’ll never forget it,” Evans said. “I’ll always help as long as I’m here.”
Considering his accomplishments in 2020 and not being able to hold the camp last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s camp was extra-special, Evans said.
“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.”
Evans said seeing the reaction of the children when he interacts with them is always heartwarming, and he is proud to follow in the tradition of a long line of Galveston athletes who went on to play sports professionally and gave back to the community.
As a boy, Evans attended and had positive experiences at camps put on by former Pittsburgh Steeler defensive lineman and Galveston native Casey Hampton, Evans said.
“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.”
After checking in, a group photo with Evans, stretching and warming up, campers began a series of football skills drills at different stations set up around Spoor Field, with Evans, Ball High coaches and other volunteers taking a hands-on approach in guiding the youngsters. The camp closed with lunch and some final remarks from Evans.
Evans is often reminded of himself as a youth when he sees some of the reactions of the children at his camp, he said.
“I used to get mad at myself, so when I see them out here, I say, ‘It’s OK, you’re just a kid; you learn and you grow,’” Evans said. “Just watching them grow is cool. Each year, I see the same kids, and they look a little different, more mature, each year. It’s just fun seeing them.”
For the children at his camp who want to be like him one day, Evans tells them to work as hard as possible and have fun, he said.
“If you do those two things, that’s a good recipe for success,” Evans said. “I tell the kids that all the time because it’s the truth. Control what you can control, and that’s working hard and having fun. You can control that.”
Registration for the free camp, open to children ages 8 to 14, was on a first-come, first-served basis, and it quickly reached its capacity of about 150 participants.
The camp is one of several events sponsored by the Mike Evans Family Foundation, which focuses on empowering youth, encouraging education and taking a stand against domestic violence. The foundation also donated $50,000 to the United Way of Galveston in March to aid locals affected by the freeze and widespread power outages.
“With as much fame as he’s garnered, Mike is the most down-to-earth guy that I’ve ever met; he wants to give back to where he came from, and Galveston is just very important to him,” said Courtney Foss, executive director of the Mike Evans Family Foundation. “He wants to keep coming back here no matter what.
“I think it’ll forever be a part of his legacy to keep contributing to the Galveston community,” Foss added.