The fact that Kyle Evans didn't get any Division I scholarship offers doesn't surprise Colorado running backs coach Darian Hagan.
"If you're not really around him and without really knowing him, you wouldn't really want to put him in the game, when you think of what an ideal running back should be," Hagan said.
Getting to know Evans quite well over the past two seasons, however, Hagan and the Buffaloes have no issues giving the ball to the 5-foot-6, 175-pound sophomore from San Jose, Calif.
"Being around him as (director of) player development and then being around him as a coach, you know what the guy can do," Hagan said. "You trust him in all phases and when you give him an opportunity, you don't worry about it.
"You can't judge him by his stature. You have to judge (a player) by his heart and their ability to make plays, and that's what he does."
A former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship by the coaching staff during August camp, Evans has become an integral part of CU's run game this season.
Serving as a backup to starter Phillip Lindsay, Evans has rushed for 171 yards on 37 carries. His 4.62-yards per carry average leads CU running backs, and 16 of his 37 carries have gone for at least five yards.
"I think the biggest thing is really just fitting in your role and being ready when your name is called," Evans said. "I'm always standing next to coach Hagan, ready for my name to be called, and once my name gets called I'm ready to go."
Sometimes, it's a long wait to hear his name. On Sept. 17 at Michigan, Evans didn't touch the ball until the last four plays of the game, with the outcome already decided. He gained 17 yards on four carries, though, and he was the only player to convert a third down for the Buffs that day.
Last Saturday at Oregon, Evans was a big part of the game plan, rushing 10 times for 61 yards during the 41-38 upset of the Ducks. He also had a catch for 21 yards on a third-and-13 play early in the first quarter. That conversion helped keep a drive alive that resulted in a field goal.
"I was anxious to get in there," said Evans, who also had 22 rushing yards on that field-goal drive. "I was in on the very first play on the kickoff, so I was really excited to be in Autzen Stadium. To me, it was more surreal than the Big House (at Michigan), so it was a great atmosphere to be in."
CU has learned that the moment is not too big for the smallest running back on the team. In fact, he's gained a great deal of respect from his teammates.
"I grew up with Kyle," CU cornerback Chidobe Awuzie said. "I played Pop Warner and he was my fullback, so I know how tough he is and how tough he's been. He really deserved (the scholarship) and it's been showing on Saturdays."
Lindsay, who has also always played bigger than his size, can appreciate what Evans has done.
"Kyle has always (gone) hard and never complained about not having a scholarship," Lindsay. "I'm proud of him and hopefully he'll continue to help us out and give us that spark."
Despite Evans' size, he is one of the strongest players on the team. He runs with power, but is also shifty and has the ability to make players miss. Of course, it doesn't hurt that defenders have a hard time finding him.
"It's really funny because most of the time when I'm running the ball , when they tackle me they're always like, 'Where did you come from?' or stuff like that," Evans said. "I like the fact that I'm sneaking out of holes and stuff and then trying to outrun people. (Being small) comes to my advantage, even though most people think it's a disadvantage."
While defenders lose sight of him, he's doing a good job of making people notice his talent.
"It's a blessing to have him in the (running back) room," Hagan said. "I've been impressed with him from the first time he stepped foot on campus.
"He's never backed down, he's never put his head down and pouted. He's consistently gotten better and better and better."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.