Why Bucs receiver Mike Evans is feeling older

Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buccaneer Place Thursday in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans participates in an "open OTA practice" at One Buccaneer Place Thursday in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT | Times]
Published Jun. 10, 2017

TAMPA — Last week, while explaining a play against the Seahawks last year, Bucs receiver Mike Evans dropped a throwaway line about Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman:

"Even though we're close in age, he's had a few more years than me in the league."

They're not that close in age.

Sherman is 29; Evans is 23.

When the Bucs drafted Evans in 2014, he was among the youngest players in the league. Last season the former Texas A&M receiver was still younger than many rookies.

But Evans is feeling like a veteran, and it isn't simply because he has been the Bucs' most productive receiver most of the past three seasons (he is 1,440 yards and seven touchdowns from the team records in those categories).

It's because of his status within the team.

Evans is a senior member of an overall young receiving group, led by DeSean Jackson, a free-agent signing this offseason after nine seasons in Philadelphia and Washington. Evans said he has always felt like a leader.

"I was a leader since I've been here," Evans said. "(Some teammates are) older than me, but I've got a lot of experience. We've got a lot of capable guys, and it's been fun."

His leadership has included being at One Buc Place for recent voluntary organized team activities. Thursday, there was Evans making a trademark high-point catch of a Jameis Winston throw for a touchdown and throwing down a powerful dunk over the goalpost to celebrate.

Evans said he values the importance of organized team activities at his position too much to miss them.

"Receivers and quarterbacks can get a lot more out of (them) than other positions," Evans said. "They can't use their pads, but we can run routes and get the timing right, which is really important."

Orlando-born boxer Erickson Lubin — formerly the world's No. 1-ranked junior middleweight before turning professional last year — was in attendance Thursday.

Evans is a boxing fan and a fan of Lubin in particular. He said he wanted to meet the 21-year-old fighter. Lubin said he is a fan of Evans on and off the field.

"I love his personality," Lubin said. "He has a great personality. He's a welcoming person. And he's a fighter, just like I am. He goes out and gives his all every game. He told me that he's a big fan of me, and I'm a big fan of him."

Within a season's reach of the franchise's key receiving records — and with Winston possessing a greater array of targets for next season than in his first two years in the league — Evans' goals for the year are team-focused.

"If I catch zero passes but we win the Super Bowl, I wouldn't have a problem," Evans said.