Two years ago, Evan Worthington was a young player with a lot more potential than maturity.
Now, he's a veteran with a fresh perspective on life and football and a determination to make up for lost time with the Colorado Buffaloes.
Roughly 18 months after being dismissed from the program for a violation of team rules, Worthington (who recently changed his last name from White) is back and a part of an intense battle for starting jobs and playing time at safety.
"It definitely felt good to be out here just playing football on a Saturday," he said after playing with the first-team defense during CU's open scrimmage on Saturday at Folsom Field.
Worthington's football career was very much in doubt when he dismissed from the team, but he spent nearly a year working his way back.
His CU career was one that started off well.
As a true freshman in 2014, Worthington was a key backup at safety and even made three starts. The next spring, he was atop the depth chart at safety.
In the fall of 2015, however, he played just three games on defense and was suspended for two games late in the season for violating the same rules that would get him dismissed. Worthington has admitted that he didn't work very hard in 2015, and that being booted from the team was an eye opener.
Then, last fall, he became a father.
Still just 21 years old — he will turn 22 next month — Worthington has returned to the Buffs as a different man.
"When I was here before I was laid back and wasn't worried about things, but now I'm definitely on top of everything," he said. "Especially being gone for a whole year. It just makes you think about everything — life and everything."
Returning to football has been important to Worthington, who was an all-state player at Cherokee Trail High School before coming to CU. He's had the game taken away once, and doesn't want it to happen again.
"I just love playing football, so this is what I want to be doing," he said. "In order for that to happen, I need to be on top of everything."
So far, he has been.
Ever since his return to the team in January, Worthington has been praised by teammates and coaches for what he's brought to the team.
At 6-foot-2, 210 pounds, Worthington is bigger and stronger than he was during his first two years at CU, and working at safety and the hybrid "Buff" back position. Barring injury, Worthington is sure to be on the field quite a bit this season.
"I'm just out here working," he said. "They're just going to put me anywhere I need to be and I'm just going to play my position."
While Worthington had a good spring, he believes he's taken his game to another level this fall, now that he's used to the grind once again.
"I definitely feel more comfortable," he said. "I've been in with the coaches getting the film down and getting everything I need to be doing on the field down. I'm feeling real comfortable now."
He has proven that during the first week of camp and looked good during the open scrimmage.
After the scrimmage, he posted a picture on Twitter of himself, his son and his girlfriend on the field. "Family is everything," he wrote.
With that new perspective and a sharper focus on the game, Worthington will continue to fight for a starting role, while having his eye on the next big step of his return: game day. The Buffs will open the season Sept. 1 against rival Colorado State at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
It will be Worthington's first game in about 21 months.
"It definitely excites me," he said. "I can't wait for the first game. I know I'm going to be a little nervous, but that's just a part of it all. I'm going to be ready for that first game."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.