The bowling alley at Grand Station Entertainment is packed, and everyone wants to talk to Mike Evans ’15. It’s been one year since he made his last public appearance in College Station, Texas, and six years since he last geared up to play football for Texas A&M University. But judging by the sizable crowd at his celebrity bowling event and fundraiser, the Aggie faithful haven’t forgotten about him for a second.
Former Aggie standouts Josh Reynolds ’17, Ryan Swope ’13, Damontre Moore ’14 and Uzoma Nwachukwu ’13 are in attendance as well, but Evans is unquestionably the man of the hour. After spending the first 30 minutes of the event posing for pictures with guests, he is shuffled in front of a set of lights and cameras for a video interview. Everywhere he goes, something pulls him in another direction.
Eventually, Evans makes his way to the two lanes where he and other former players are set to bowl against each other. Before he can get comfortable, a swarm of kids decked out in Texas A&M and Tampa Bay Buccaneer jerseys surround him. None of them are bold enough to ask for an autograph, but they don’t have to. Evans stands up, asks for a marker, and goes to work scrawling his name on every jersey and football put in front of him.
All the chaotic back-and-forth doesn’t seem to faze the NFL wide receiver. In fact, he enjoys it. “You know, regardless of the money and the competition, I love being a role model,” Evans said. “That’s the best part of being in my position. I take pride in it, and I try to be the best at it.”
From Galveston to Tampa
When he was growing up in Galveston, Texas, Evans’ role model was his coach and best friend’s father, Terry Petteway. After Evans’ own father was tragically murdered when he was 14 years old, Petteway stepped in to guide him and help him reach his full potential. “Coach Petteway was my mentor,” Evans said. “I saw [in him] what it was like to be a man, to raise your family, to be good to your wife and to provide for your kids.”
Petteway’s leadership inspired Evans to work harder and set himself apart as an athlete. Up until his junior year at Ball High School, Evans saw himself as a basketball player. Already a versatile 6'5'' hooper at age 17, he received offers to play basketball at Virginia Commonwealth University, Wichita State University and The University of Texas at Austin. During his senior year, though, he fell in love with football and eventually accepted an offer to play wide receiver for Texas A&M.
Fast, ferocious and nearly impossible to tackle once he hit his stride after a catch, Evans made his presence known during his two years with the Aggies as a go-to target for quarterback Johnny Manziel ’15. In two seasons, he caught 151 passes for 2,499 yards, earning his selection to the 2013 AP All-America Team. Around the same time he started attracting attention from NFL scouts, his roommate introduced him to his future wife, Ashli Dotson.
Evans declared for the NFL draft following his sophomore year and was chosen as the seventh overall pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He and Ashli moved to Florida with his then 1-year-old daughter, Mackenzie. The two were engaged in 2014 and married in 2016. While Evans established himself as an elite receiver early in his professional career, he and his wife made plans to give back in a big way.
“The Ultimate Leader by Example”
With five seasons with the Buccaneers and almost a dozen franchise receiving records under his belt, Evans returned to College Station as a shining ambassador for Texas A&M on a national stage. But he didn’t come back to Aggieland to soak in fans’ appreciation. He came to deliver a gift.
During the bowling event, Mike and Ashli presented a $40,000 check from their Mike Evans Family Foundation to Texas A&M. Half of their gift established $2,000 scholarships for 10 students through the Scholarships and Financial Aid office, while the other half established two $10,000 Foundation Excellence Award (FEA) scholarships through the Texas A&M Foundation. All of the scholarships are designated for students from Galveston who demonstrate financial need, while FEA scholarships specifically help recruit and retain outstanding undergraduates from historically disadvantaged groups.
“My wife and I are all about helping,” Evans said. “We just want to preach that if you work hard, you can get where you need to go. Just because you’re a little less fortunate doesn’t mean that you should be treated any differently.” Evans emphasized how important it was for him to impact the communities he’s called home. “Galveston and College Station helped me become the man I am today as well as Tampa,” he said. “I just want to give back as much as I can.”
Evans is keenly aware of the value he adds to his team, just as he is aware of the people and places that supported him before anyone wanted his autograph. When asked about his teammate Cameron Brate calling him “the ultimate leader by example” in the Buccaneers’ locker room, Evans coolly summarizes how he can lead with such confidence. “Well,” he explains, “I’ve had to follow.”
To learn more about how you can give back through an FEA scholarship, contact Al Pulliam ’87 at (979) 845-6023 or email@example.com.