Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
The silence was deafening.
It was about a year and a half ago when Kyle Evans’ gruesome injury effectively shut down the first significant scrimmage of Colorado’s 2017 spring workouts. Evans was supposed to provide backfield support to Phillip Lindsay last year. Though he eventually made a remarkable recovery from the dislocated hip that stunned his teammates into silence that March day, Evans’ season never gained traction.
When the Buffaloes hit the turf Friday night at Broncos Stadium, a fully healthy Evans finally will have an opportunity to build on the promise he displayed as a freshman and sophomore. Sharing top billing atop the Buffs’ depth chart alongside Virginia Tech transfer Travon McMillian, any big play Evans records in the opener against Colorado State surely will provide a jolt of inspiration to teammates who had reason to wonder if Evans would ever suit up again a year and a half ago.
“It was one of those ones at practice where everybody stops and nobody moves,” MacIntyre said. “(Trainer) Adam Holliday said, ‘Mike, we’ve got to go keep on practicing. I said, ‘I don’t want to keep practicing. This is terrible.’
“And lo and behold, he’s back. Last year as the season went on, he started getting better and better. But Phillip was running so hot in what we were doing at the time. But he is just taking off. He’s better than he was as a sophomore right now. It’s an amazing story to me.”
MacIntyre, for one, probably isn’t surprised at the perseverance displayed by Evans over the past 18 months. He has seen it before.
Earlier this week, CU’s leader recounted how he first met an eager young Evans when MacIntyre still was the head coach at San Jose State. A broken ankle robbed Evans of his senior year of high school while MacIntyre, who had been recruiting Evans, moved on to CU. Yet Evans proved persistent. He opted to walk-on at CU and redshirted as a true freshman. He played sparingly as a rookie in 2015 but was awarded a scholarship by MacIntyre just before the 2016 season.
That fall, Evans rewarded his coach’s faith, becoming a dependable contributor during the Buffs’ drive to the Pac-12 South Division title. Evans played in every game and rushed for 346 yards, adding another 114 yards on eight receptions. He was a key figure in one of the Buffs’ most impressive wins that season at Oregon, recording 61 yards on 10 carries and adding a 21-yard reception.
That’s the player MacIntyre believes is even better now, despite last year’s hip injury.
“This is the first time I’ll be co-starting in a college game,” Evans said. “For me, just going in with a chip on my shoulder and understand I have something to prove. Because there’s not necessarily a lot of tape on me, particularly at running back. Just going out there and showing the last four or five year that I’ve been at CU what I’ve been taught through…all the coaches on the offense.”
Evans was mostly forced into a spectator role last season while his hip continued to heal and Lindsay took over. He played in eight games and touched the ball only four times — two rushing attempts for two yards, one catch for six yards, and one kickoff return for nine yards. It may not take Evans long to surpass that production by halftime against CSU.
“You really have to go in knowing that every game you go into is your last first game, against CSU. Next week will be my last second game,” Evans said. “Just understanding that, and knowing that there is a timeline to college football. And, just really leaving everything out there and having no regrets on every play.”