Prairie Ridge quarterback Samson Evans had reached near legendary status before his senior season began, having twice been named Northwest Herald Football Player of the Year and having led the Wolves to an 8-1 playoff record (over two seasons) and one Class 6A state championship.
Evans further enhanced that reputation with his performance this season, running for 2,101 yards and 37 more touchdowns, and, most importantly, helping the Wolves to another state title.
Prairie Ridge’s season was saved on Evans’ 66-yard touchdown run with seven seconds remaining against Cary-Grove in the second round of the playoffs. In the state championship game, he had a punt return touchdown, 155 yards rushing and a crucial 38-yard kickoff return to set up the winning touchdown. Evans finished his career at No. 7 on the IHSA career rushing list (6,385) and No. 3 in rushing touchdowns (111).
He was selected as Northwest Herald Football Player of the Year by the sports staff, with input from area coaches, and is the first player to win three times. Huntley quarterback Eric Mooney also received strong consideration.
Northwest Herald senior sports writer Joe Stevenson posed questions to Evans about touchdown celebrations, sports movies and preparing for a new position in college.
What is a sport that you are bad at?
Evans: Cross country. I cannot run long distances. Long distance doesn’t feel good with my body. I’m more of a one-sprint kind of guy.
The NFL relaxed its rules on touchdown celebrations, and the creativity has been wonderful. Which one was your favorite?
Evans: Definitely when the Vikings were playing the Bears and they played “Duck, Duck, Goose” in the end zone. That, by far, was my favorite one.
If you wouldn’t get flagged, what would you do with your teammates after a touchdown?
Evans: Stir the pot. Me, Jackson (Willis) and Jeff (Jenkins) worked on it all the time in practice.
Which of your teammates makes you laugh the most?
Evans: Matt Farstead and Big Curls (Riley Smith).
Could you ever see yourself coaching?
Evans: I’m not sure if I can. I think it would be fun to be coaching at a high level, though.
Who is the most famous person whose number is in your cellphone?
Evans: Jordan Lynch (Northern Illinois assistant coach), Lovie Smith (Illinois head coach) and Kirk Ferentz (Iowa head coach).
What are three of your favorite sports movies?
Evans: “When the Game Stands Tall,” “Gridiron Gang” and “The Longest Yard.”
Was there any significance to the sleeve you wore on your right arm being pink?
Evans: I wore it in October for my grandma, who I’m named after (Samuela), who passed away from breast cancer when I was younger. And once playoffs hit, I thought it would be a good idea to keep wearing it for my final games as a reminder that, even though she wasn’t able to see me play in high school, she is always with me. It almost felt like good luck wearing it.
Will you and Jeff Jenkins get Nos. 22 and 77 at Iowa?
Evans: I don’t know for sure, but anything can happen. I hope I’m able to wear 22 again down the road. I’ll definitely be asking the coaches what numbers are open next time I talk to them.
How do you prepare for playing receiver in college?
Evans: I’ll have to work on routes, agility and my hands a lot. Whether it’s at Davis Speed Center or going on our practice fields and working with Connor Lydon, next year’s quarterback at PR.
Which teammate impresses you the most in the weight room?
Evans: Jackson Willis and Zach Gulbransen. For being running backs, they both put up stupid numbers. Both are extremely strong kids in the upper and lower body. And also sophomore Zach Orr definitely surprised me in our weight groups during the offseason. He put up some big numbers for a sophomore and definitely was impressive.
Who were a few of the toughest defenders you played against in the FVC?
Evans: I don’t think I can single out just one player, but in my three years at quarterback, there are two games I remember being super-physical. My sophomore year against Grayslake North, when it was still in the FVC. They would hit me every single play, to the point where it just made me mad. And definitely Cary-Grove, their defense is always tough and physical. You always have to fight for yards no matter what against them. Nothing but respect for that team.
What went through your mind when Drew Norton pulled in that interception on the final play against Nazareth in the 6A state championship game?
Evans: I can remember squatting down on the sideline and just praying that we would make a big play ... and when he picked that off, I was so happy. It was a sigh of relief. Everything we worked so hard for had paid off.
What would be your soap opera name? (Your middle name and the street you live on).
Evans: Joseph Churchill.
What song would you do if you had to sing karaoke?
Evans: I’m not sure what song, but it would definitely be either country or a Kings of Leon song.
Do you and Jeff know the words to the Iowa fight song yet?
Evans: Not yet.
What is your go-to dance move?
Evans: I’m not much of a dancer, so I really couldn’t tell you.
What is something that scares you?
Evans: Knowing that one day I won’t be able to play football anymore. That, and losing, are pretty scary, but that is probably the most.