TAMPA — Months before the Bucs made him their first-round pick, Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans spent three weeks in San Diego, training for the NFL combine with Hall of Fame receiver James Lofton.
And if anyone can appreciate the parallels drawn between the 6-foot-5 Evans and his new teammate, 6-5 three-time Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, it should be Lofton, who was Jackson's receivers coach in his first three seasons with the Chargers.
"The size is the first comparison, but they both have basketball backgrounds," Lofton said by phone from New York, where he announced the Packers' second-round draft pick Friday night. "You'll see that Mike is a very aggressive player, and if you talk to defensive backs or coaches around the league about Vincent, you'll find he's one of the best blockers in the league. That's a trait Mike has also. He takes a lot of pride in what he does on the football field."
Evans, taken with the No. 7 overall pick Thursday night, is the highest the Bucs have ever drafted a receiver, and he'll be counted on to be an immediate starter, building off a sophomore season at Texas A&M in which he totaled 1,394 yards and 12 touchdowns. Lofton said Evans' physical skills are easy to appreciate in his college highlights, but he likes the 20-year-old's ability to listen and learn quickly from coaching.
"You're really happy when you're with a kid who's smart, who has a good football intellect, who wants to learn," Lofton said. "That's who Mike is, just like Vincent Jackson, who was one of the smartest players I ever had."
Evans was introduced Friday to local media and spoke of his many motivations — wanting a better life for 2-year-old daughter Mackenzie, as well as his mother, Heather Kilgore, who raised him after his father was killed when he was 9.
"I want her to grow up better than I did, so I'm going to use that as a motivation on the field and off the field," he said of Mackenzie. "I'm just happy to be a Buc."
Evans said the things he learned from Lofton in San Diego were as much about handling himself off the field as it was the X's and O's of being an NFL receiver.
"It's about being a great person and being a great teammate," he said. "Nobody wants to play with somebody they can't be around off the field. He was just telling me about that, telling me that you have to be tough. He said I wouldn't have a problem with that."
Lofton, 57, said the dual threat of two tall, talented receivers such as Jackson and Evans could create the same problems the Bears did last year with 6-4 Brandon Marshall and 6-3 Alshon Jeffery, who combined for 2,716 yards and 19 touchdowns.
"I think they're going to be a really dynamic combination," he said. "(Marshall and Jeffery) may be an inch shorter, but they're both big targets, and a similar situation with a veteran guy and a young guy coming in. People will do everything they can to stop them, and the best thing they can do is have a strong running game to go along with them."