Dane Evans was 15 years old and watching CFL football on TV with his dad in Sanger, Texas, when a hotel appeared on the screen, one of those wide panoramic shots that show the home city. It looked like a castle.
“My dad said ‘if you go play up there, we could stay in that hotel,'” Evans said this week after signing with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats as a quarterback. “He’s excited.”
The elder Evans is a high school football coach in Texas and his son grew up literally surrounded by the game. In Sanger, the 5,000-seat stadium is almost big enough to accommodate the entire town (pop. 6,900).
It also goes at least some way to explaining why a Texas high school kid was watching CFL football.
“My dad is a football coach so all we do is watch football so we’d watch the CFL in the summer. I remember thinking ‘this is the craziest thing ever’ because everybody is in motion,” Evans said.
“But it’s such a vertical a game, you can’t really dink and dunk like you can in American football.”
Evans played for his father at Sanger and says while the two butted heads a few times — Dad also called the plays — it’s become one of his most cherished memories.
“I didn’t really understand the impact it would have on my life while I was doing it. But I’ll never forget when we lost out of the playoffs my senior year. He and I were in the locker room alone and I knew right then why he wanted to coach me,” Evans said. “That feeling you have as father and son, coach and player, it doesn’t get more special.”
Evans played his college ball at Tulsa where he was a four-year starter, leading the Hurricanes to a 10-3 record in his senior season and finishing as the all-time leading passer in Tulsa history with 11,680 yards and 84 touchdowns with 47 interceptions.
“He’s got good fundamentals, an over-the-top delivery and those things affect his accuracy in a positive way. His numbers the last two years were really good,” general manager Eric Tillman said. “He’s (six feet) and doesn’t have a super-strong arm but he can fit the ball into tight windows.”
Sanger signed a free agent contract with the Philadelphia Eagles and appeared in all four pre-season games with the team this spring before being released. He went back to Tulsa where he was added to the staff as an assistant before the Ticats called.
“I want to coach but I feel like I can still play and talking to the coaches at Tulsa, some of them didn’t pursue their dream to play all the way to the end and they regret it now,” Evans said. “They told me to play until you’re really ready to hang it up.”
The 23-year-old was added to the Ticat practice roster this week with an eye to next season when the Ticats could have a very different look at quarterback. Current starter Jeremiah Masoli is slated to become a free agent in February while backup Zach Collaros, who lost the No. 1 job in early September, is under contract for a big salary cap number that Hamilton may be looking to shed.
“I’m just happy to be out there — I don’t have any expectations of getting reps or anything,” Evans said. “I’m just trying to learn the offence and the game,”
With a degree in both education and exercise sports science as well as a minor in sports administration, Evans is set up to follow his father into coaching — despite the fact that his old man tried to talk him out of it.
“Odds are you aren’t going to get rich coaching football,” Evans said. “But I’m not doing it to get rich — I just love the game.”
As for that hotel, Evans isn’t sure where in Canada it was. But he’s hoping he and his dad get a chance to figure it out in person.
Notes: Canadian defensive tackle Ted Laurent practised for the third straight day and looks set to start against Winnipeg on Friday, but defensive back Demond Washington is out four-to-six weeks with an upper body injury… Running back C.J. Gable issued a thank-you message to fans via his Instagram account: “5years 1,825 days I would not have wanted to spend this time anywhere else. From Guelph 2 the Hammer. THANK YOU Hamilton! It has been an honor.”