By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — It’s been an interesting journey for Jahri Evans—a trip that’s taken him from an under-recruited lineman out of Frankford High School, to fourth-round draft pick of the New Orleans Saints out of Division II Bloomsburg—to Super Bowl champion, to possibly one day wearing a yellow jacket in Canton.
Gradually, quietly, the gregarious 6-foot-4, 320-pound guard from Philly has become a five-time All Pro (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), and if he stays healthy and continues to play the way he has the previous five years, who knows where that could lead?
He may be entrenched in New Orleans. He is one of the more popular Saints. But there’s no doubting where he still calls home.
“I’m from Philly, I went to college in upstate Pennsylvania, and my family is all still in Philly and I grew up an Eagles’ fan growing up, so Philly will be always be home for me,” said Evans, who comes back each summer and holds a special one-day camp for kids in the area, this year, on May 17, at Frankford High School.
“New Orleans is my second home,” Evans added. “The fans in New Orleans are great. The city is great. We’ve had some great teams and won some big games. Philly is still great to me. Philly is still a great sports town.”
Evans’ giving has brought him back to building a weight room at Frankford, and bringing Saints’ teammates up to work with the kids at his camp.
He also brought some sadness to Eagles fans at Lincoln Financial Field in helping the Saints beat the Eagles, 26-24, on a 32-yard Shayne Graham field goal as time expired.
Drew Brees and the Saints kept moving on a simple play—which converted a third-and-one at the Eagles’ 27 with 2:32 to play, and three plays later, Brees prolonged the drive with another quarterback sneak with just :29 on the clock on a third-and-one.
Evans played a major part in the Saints’ success. And it wasn’t Eagles’ nose guard Benny Logan’s fault.
“I spoke to a lot of guys on the Eagles since the playoff game and they thought we were going to pass the ball a lot,” Evans said. “We actually came out and ran the ball well. We saw a little gap in the Eagles’ defense, depending on how they were shifted or lined up, that if the [quarterback sneak] presented itself, we were going to take it. They gave us that play in crucial times in a couple of third-and-shorts. The line got low and Drew went right behind us.”
Evans said Logan played a nice game. The Eagles’ inability to stop the Saints on quarterback sneaks was more schematic than personnel based.
“It was an alignment, and sometimes when we get to the line, we have two or three plays called,” Evans said. “It was alignment deal that we saw and they played it every time. They kind of caught on a little bit, but we were still able to get the first downs. It was an alignment deal that we attacked, and it worked.”
Evans, a five-time Pro Bowler, five-time All Pro, was assigned the locker next to Evan Mathis at the Pro Bowl last year.
“Evan has good technique and he’s played well these two years,” Evans said. “Look at the success LeSean McCoy has had. I think you say Evan Mathis is a reason why. Evan has been in the longer than me, and he’s shown he’s a very coachable player and he’s willing to listen. I hope the Eagles realize what they have with him.”
In the meantime, Jahri Evans continues to be one of the NFL standard-bearers at guard. He says he still has a lot of football ahead of him, and admits it’s a dream to one day have his bust in Canton, Ohio.
“It’s something to shoot for,” Evans said. “I’m just working and want to keep going the way I have. Being a part of the Hall of Fame is something that one day I would like to shoot for. It’s been a great ride so far that I would like to continue.”
From Frankford, to Bloomsburg, to New Orleans, to Super Bowl champion … the journey continues.
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.