Saints' Jahri Evans proud of his Philadelphia roots
Zach Berman, Inquirer Staff Writer
Posted: Saturday, November 3, 2012, 1:44 AM
METAIRIE, La. - When Saints guard Jahri Evans arrived in New Orleans in 2006, teammates teased him for being an Eagles fan. A Nicetown native and Frankford High School alumnus, Evans is proud of his Philadelphia roots, even though he has become a Pro Bowl player for the Saints.
"Basically follow all the [Philadelphia] sports teams but the Eagles," Evans said Friday afternoon.
Evans will play the Eagles for the fifth time in his career on Monday night. He's still a devoted Philadelphian, making his offseason home in the area and focusing his charity efforts in his hometown.
But Evans is also one of the longest-tenured Saints, a starter since his rookie season who has earned three Pro Bowl appearances. He's one of New Orleans' cornerstone players, responsible for protecting quarterback Drew Brees and keeping the Saints offense among the best in the NFL.
That's a role Evans has held throughout his career, although his profile increased when the Saints won the Super Bowl in February 2010. It was also Evans' first year reaching the Pro Bowl, an unlikely destination for a fourth-round pick who played college football at Bloomsburg.
"I think that's where people really said, 'Wow, where's this guy from?' " Evans said. "But I always improve my game and what people watch in me, make sure I don't show any weaknesses. Because eventually, you're going to run up against someone who's bigger, better, faster, and stronger."
After the Super Bowl, Evans signed a $56.7 million contract. It was the biggest deal paid to an NFL guard at the time. Interim head coach Joe Vitt called Evans an "impact player," and that's not just because he has been anointed as one of the best guards in the league. It's also because every Sunday, the Saints can expect Evans to play.
"Doesn't have any sense of entitlement," Vitt said. "Doesn't miss a practice, doesn't miss a meeting, doesn't miss a game."
Evans has started all 108 games in his career. Offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael said Evans does not even miss snaps in practice.
"I just want to be dependable," Evans said. "We all depend on people to do their job, and that's my job. . . . I've had my dings and bruises coming up, but I've been really blessed to play every snap."
Evans still trains each offseason in Philadelphia. When his teammates were asked this week if he talks about his hometown, they couldn't hold in their laughter.
"Constantly," offensive tackle Zach Strief said.
"When does he not talk about Philadelphia?" offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod said.
Evans recently funded four $4,000 college scholarships for Philadelphia-area student-athletes. Evans takes particular pride being from the inner city and a Philadelphia School District graduate, a rare distinction in the NFL.
He pointed to Baltimore's Jameel McClain (George Washington) and mentioned NFL veteran Raheem Brock (Dobbins), who is currently a free agent.
"We try to do as much as we can back home, because we know we didn't have that growing up, and now we have a couple guys in the league that have been successful," Evans said.
He also tries to bring his hometown to his in-season home. When the Saints played in Philadelphia in 2009, Evans bought the entire team cheesesteaks from the original Lee's Hoagie House. When the offensive linemen order from a sub shop in New Orleans, Evans still says he wants a "hoagie."
"No one else calls them hoagies," Strief said. "He fights for that right."
Evans expects his family to wear black and gold this weekend. Other friends will want him to play well, but want to see the Eagles win. That has happened just once in the four times Evans has played the Eagles - and he wants to advance to 4-1 in the series, even though it's a team that his teammates teased him about cheering.
"He's just a person who loves where he's from," Bushrod said, "and he'll let you know about it."
Sproles out. Saints running back Darren Sproles is out for Monday's game with a broken hand, Vitt said. Vitt would not disclose which hand was injured. Sproles, a multidimensional player, has 117 rushing yards and 323 receiving yards this season.
Contact Zach Berman at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter @ZBerm.
Zach Berman Inquirer Staff Writer
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Posted 03 November 2012 - 09:04 AM