Mike Evans makes case to be among elite

COLLEGE STATION, Texas — After putting together the performance of his young career against the nation's top team, it was clear that the only thing that could stop Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans was his own body.

After cramping up toward the end of the Aggies' 49-42 loss to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday at Kyle Field, Evans received fluid intravenously to hydrate himself after a day that many Aggies won't soon forget.

Seven catches, 279 yards. One 95-yard touchdown and multiple highlight-worthy grabs. At the end of it all, Evans was drained.

"I gave it all I had," he said. "I caught cramps at the end of the fourth. I feel kind of beat up. I feel like I played the whole season."

Fitting, since his receiving yardage total is higher than that of 35 FBS teams so far in 2013.

Based on his early season performance, the 6-foot-5, 225-pound Evans is quickly making his case to be considered one of the nation's best receivers. The man who throws him the football, reigning Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel, is already sold that Evans is No. 1.

"In my eyes, Mike Evans is the best receiver in college football," Manziel said. "I've seen him every day and I get to see how he works against defenders and it's just amazing. A big guy like that who can really run and gives his all every game, what a great player."

It's still intriguing to think about his success when you consider Evans played only one varsity season of football at Galveston (Texas) Ball High. He spent the majority of his high school career focused on basketball, He was one of the top players in Galveston County and the Greater Houston area.

But before his senior season, he decided to go out for football. The day of the first padded practice Evans participated in on Ball's varsity squad, Tulane offered him. Evans participated in football, basketball and track his senior season but eventually decided football was his future. He committed to Texas A&M in December of his senior year.

Evans redshirted as a freshman in 2011 and began developing a chemistry with the scout-team quarterback, which happened to be Manziel. That explains why the two had such a good rapport when they both made their A&M debuts last season.

"We used to have a lot of fun together," Evans said. "We played basketball. He's one of my best friends. I guess that's where our connection comes in."

The two are roommates in the team hotel the night before games. Manziel said that Friday night the two were talking about how the game was going to play out and "I knew he was going to come out and play pretty good."

Alabama had so much trouble handling Evans that they used three different defensive backs in the first half after Evans exploded in the Aggies' first two series. He caught four passes for 135 yards in the first quarter alone and though the Tide made their adjustments, he was still able to have an impact as the game went on. He kept the Aggies in the game with a career-high 95-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.

"Mike's the best receiver in the nation," offensive tackle Cedric Ogbuehi said. "He works hard and the hard work carried over to the field [Saturday]. I'm glad for him, I'm happy for him. He's a great receiver and I'm glad it showed."

Evans is demanding of himself, though. When asked about his own performance after Saturday's loss, Evans critiqued his blocking in the running game. He was in no mood to discuss his catches and yards; the team's loss concerned him more.

Before the spring, when asked what would make the 2013 season a special one individually, Evans simply said one word: "Biltenikoff." If he continues to play like he did Saturday, winning the trophy that goes to the country's best receiver will become a foregone conclusion. His teammates are already sold.

"I just practice my butt off and try my best every day," Evans said. "If they want to say that, then I love them for that."