NFL teams and bookshelves beware: Cardinals rookie is ticked

Evan Weaver, college football's leading tackler in 2019, has a "boulder on his shoulder" and furniture in his wake after falling to Arizona in the sixth round of the NFL draft. Cody Glenn/Icon Sportswire

TEMPE, Ariz. -- As the sixth round of the 2020 NFL draft went on, University of California linebacker Evan Weaver got progressively more ticked off.

The week before the draft, somewhere around 12 teams told Weaver he was going in either the fourth or fifth round. But when one of those teams passed on him in the fourth, fifth AND sixth rounds, Weaver went to his room at his childhood home in Spokane, Washington, and began destroying a bookshelf.

Weaver's dad, Todd, thought his son was ripping down drywall at first. When he opened the door and Evan shot him a look, Todd closed the door and let Evan continue wrecking the bookshelf -- a corner of which went through the wall. By time Evan was done, the bookshelf was in pieces.

Not long afterward, Weaver was taken by the Arizona Cardinals with the 202nd pick. Evan and his mom, Christine, cried.

"I don't ever want to do it again," she said.

Throughout his football career, as he starred and flourished on the field, Weaver has been underestimated.

He enters the NFL with a laundry list of critical scouting reports, most of which said he's not athletic enough to play in the NFL, despite a senior season in which he was named a consensus All-American and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year while leading the Football Bowl Subdivision with 181 tackles.

He hears the criticisms. He listens to them. He tracks them. He and his dad wrote them on a rock from their backyard.

"It's not just his chip on his shoulder," his mom said. "But his boulder on his shoulder."

Even Cal defensive coordinator Peter Sirmon, who played linebacker on the Tennessee Titans for seven seasons, underestimated Weaver while recruiting him at USC.

"He was a guy that was a little bit out of position," Sirmon said. "You didn't know really where he was going to play. He played everywhere in high school. So, it was a tough eval.

"Is he the world's best athlete? No. I'm not advocating that people are incorrect, but with production, I have a hard time thinking that athleticism is as low as some people might believe it is."

Weaver blossomed into a superb tackler at Cal and caught the Cardinals' eye in the process. Arizona learned first-hand about Evan's intensity during their meetings at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in January.

"I'm a pretty fiery dude," Weaver said. "I want to compete with everything I do."

He's a mix of his mom and dad, both of whom are intense and competitive in their own ways. Christine, who said she was the first girl to play in her hometown's Little League, grew up playing soccer, going to Europe at age 16 to play with women's teams. She quit playing just two years ago because of a back injury. Todd wasn't as athletic as his wife or son but he grew up playing everything. His intensity now shows up in business, he said.

Evan's intensity started the second he was born, Christine said.

He screamed a lot as a baby. He destroyed his Exersaucer. When he was 6, he used a nail gun to blast carpenter's nails spelling out "Evan" into the wall. The basement ceiling was covered in ball marks. When Weaver went away to college, his parents had to "de-Evanize" their house.

"I feel like he was someone who required a lot of corralling," said Tess, Evan's older sister. "As soon as we'd get home from school, it was like all hands on deck."

"He was a handful and we are so grateful that our lovely daughter was born first because he was so much to handle that he would've been an only child," Christine said. "There's no doubt."

Their baby boy grew to be 6-foot-2 and 237 pounds but his 4.76 40-yard dash at the NFL combine did not impress. Twenty-two linebackers finished with a faster time in Indianapolis, including Cardinals first-round pick Isaiah Simmons, who ran a 4.39. It's just one more boulder for Weaver to carry on his shoulder.

"4.4 40s don't win you Super Bowls," Weaver said. "Guys who are willing to actually play win you Super Bowls."