More than two weeks into preseason camp and with more than two weeks to go before the first game, the Colorado Buffaloes are officially in "grind time," as head coach Mike MacIntyre put it on Tuesday.
No better time to have one of the most popular players on the team return to the field.
Junior running back Kyle Evans returned to the field this week for the first time since dislocating his hip during a spring scrimmage on March 4.
"I think he gave our guys a life seeing him back out there, because he's a guy they all love and he has that spark to him," MacIntyre said. "I think them seeing him out there gave them all a jolt today, really."
The 5-foot-7, 175-pound Evans has to go through a mandatory five-day acclimation period, where he can't practice in pads, but simply being on the field again brightened his smile.
"You kind of forget once you put the helmet on what it feels like, the weight of it, how stuffy it can get when you're running around a little bit, but it was really good being out here with the team," Evans said. "You feel like you're a little bit more involved."
A former walk-on who was awarded a scholarship last year, Evans was the Buffs' No. 2 tailback a year ago, finishing with 346 yards and three touchdowns on 84 carries. He also caught eight passes for 114 yards.
He is eager to start competing for that No. 2 job again, behind starter Phillip Lindsay. Seniors Michael Adkins II and Donovan Lee and sophomore Beau Bisharat have all had good camps to this point.
"I love competition," Evans said, "and I know that when I get on the field, it's going to push the other running backs to really compete for their spot. It's just better for the team in terms of getting everybody to want to be better and know the playbook better, get everything situated."
Evans' hip injury was his first major injury since 2013, when he was a senior in high school. He broke both of his hands in one game and was believed to be out for several months, but returned in less than five weeks.
Returning from the hip injury in just over five months prompted MacIntyre to call Evans "a miracle guy." Throughout the process, Evans continued to exceed workout goals.
"(The doctors) kept me intrigued and wanting to push myself to get better," he said. "Even now I'm doing a lot more stuff to really get back into it next week."
Evans said this injury required more mental strength than when he broke his hands, especially because he was "basically bedridden" for the first few weeks and on crutches for about two and a half months.
"That was a long time of being immobile," he said. "Once the crutches came off, each week I was progressing."
Evans does not expect to go full-speed and full-contact as soon as he can put the pads on, but hopes to be ready to go when the Buffs open the season Sept. 1 against Colorado State.
"I'll be putting on the pads next week, but in terms of how much I do, it's going to be still a little limited," he said. "By the time the season comes, I should be ready to go. That's the plan."
For now, he's excited to be practicing again, and he can't wait to get tackled.
"That's going to be the final step," he said. "Once I get that first hit, it's going to be when I'm pretty much ready to go."
The Buffs were in full pads on Tuesday and MacIntyre said the Buffs were able to get in a lot of repetitions and "we did a lot with the (third-stringers) also today." ... As the Buffs get into the middle of camp, MacIntyre said he's seeing captains and other players stepping up "vocally and showing it in their actions." ... CU's play of the day video showed Adkins breaking a pair of tackles and sprinting down the sidelines for a long touchdown run against backup defenders.