Before each practice, Randall Evans examines a list of personal goals on his iPad.
It’s his ritual.
Over the years, the list has included everything from intercepting passes to sacking quarterbacks and winning national awards. This season, the Kansas State senior defensive back has a new priority. He enters his fifth and final season as K-State’s active leading tackler. He wants to retain that title.
“It is an honor to have the most career tackles on this defense,” Evans said. “It makes me want to work harder. I have 146 tackles, and one of my goals is to get in that 200 club. I am going to set the standard really high tackle-wise this season.”
Evans took an improbable route to this point. The Miami native obtained a walk-on spot at K-State with the help of former basketball star Michael Beasley (he was dating Beasley’s sister) and worked his way up the depth chart playing multiple positions. Coach Bill Snyder has used him at safety, cornerback and linebacker. Eventually, his versatility won him the nickelback job, a do-everything position that requires man coverage, run stopping and pass rushing against spread offenses.
He has been solid throughout his career, starting as a sophomore and making as many as 76 tackles in a season, but he has always flown under the radar. Ask K-State fans who leads the roster in career tackles and many will guess Jonathan Truman, a senior linebacker and captain, or Dante Barnett, the defensive MVP of last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Heck, Evans admits he didn’t know he was the team’s top tackler until a reporter told him last spring.
“I feel a little overlooked, most definitely, but I try not to think about things like that,” Evans said. “I just let my film do the talking and win games. I let that motivate me, when people say I’m not as good as other defenders in the Big 12. This year I am going to show everyone what Randall Evans is all about.”
Evans will get the opportunity. He is a key member of K-State’s 4-2-5 formation, used against most conference opponents.
“He plays a tweener position, except in our thought process he has to have a cover talent,” defensive coordinator Tom Hayes said. “The slot receiver is one of the better receivers on any receiving corps and he is the guy who deals with him. He is challenged weekly in that regard. Randall has worked at that. Do they get him once in a while? Sure they do, but his work ethic and his dedication to the position have done him well.
“One thing I know about him is he is a good space tackler. He lives in space and he makes a lot of tackles.”
Evans also hopes to make an impact as a leader.
K-State is trying to move on without Blake Slaughter and Tre Walker (linebackers), Kip Daily and Dorrian Roberts (cornerbacks) and Ty Zimmerman (safety). That’s a lot of turnover in the middle and back portions of a defense. Having spent time at all three positions, a group of new starters will be looking to Evans for guidance.
“It is up to me,” Evans said. “Out of all the (defensive backs) I have been here the longest. I try to keep them in line. They may say we are the weakest unit out of the whole Kansas State football team, because we got new guys coming in, but we just use that as motivation. We will be a complete defense.”
Evans will need to be at his best for that to be the case. He is coming off a season in which he made 59 tackles and two interceptions.
Solid numbers in a solid season, but he is ready to tackle higher goals.
“I want to go out with a great year and help the other (defensive backs) have a great year,” Evans said. “This is my last one. I want to be able to look back 20 years from now and not think about the mistakes or what I could have done. I want to take care of everything this year.”