TAMPA — Mike Evans didn’t bowl in his own charity event Monday evening due to his right hamstring injury. He walked around the AMF University Lanes with a slight limp, one that was almost unnoticeable because he couldn’t take more than a few steps before a photograph or autograph seeker stopped him.
It didn't stop Evans from granting every selfie, signing every jersey and giving out hugs to those who came out to his "Catch For Christmas" charity event to benefit the foundation he created with his wife Ashli just a year ago to provide college scholarships to low-income students.
"Tonight we're going to send a lot of kids to college and help out a lot of kids," Evans said. "We're trying to help them become successful. ... We love to give back. We do random acts of kindness all the time, but we wanted to leave a legacy for our whole family and just help people for a long long time, just spread positivity and get kids educated that deserve an education."
In June, the foundation donated $25,000 to USF to start a scholarship fund for local students in need of financial assistance, and the organization made a similar contribution at Evans' alma mater Texas A&M earlier in the year.
Though the foundation is in its infancy, Evans said he's already seen its impact.
"It's awesome," Evans said. "I get letters from are appreciative of even smaller scholarships that I've given in the past. The ones I give bigger scholarships too, they always write me and are in contact with me and my wife about helping them and they progress, how much they've progressed in college. It's pretty awesome."
On Tuesday morning, Evans and his wife will host 13 kids at the Bucs complex, giving them breakfast, a tour of the facility and presents from their holiday wish lists.
"We have 13 kids who come from low-income families who are making really good grades, that are really good students and they love to give back at well," Evans said. "So we're going to give them everything they want off their Christmas list and it's an awesome time. ... Seeing the smiles on their faced means a lot."
Several of Evans' Bucs teammates attended the event to show their support, including quarterback Jameis Winston, who wore a brace on his right hand to stabilize his injured thumb. Winston still participated, bowling left-handed.
Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Scotty Miller and Ryan Griffin were among the players who attended the event.
Evans said growing up, he never thought he would be able to make such an impact in the community. But he said he’s just beginning his philanthropic work.
"You always dream of being a famous athlete," But you never think about the impact you can leave on the younger generation, having a foundation and giving back and things like that. I'm extremely blessed with this platform. I'm just going to keep it going. I'm going to help as long as I can and I'm going to try to be the best player I can be for as long as I can in Tampa."
Through the marketing firm that held Evans event, he said he did not wish to comment on his injury.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.