Who is new Ticats’ starting quarterback Dane Evans?

Like most players who come to the CFL, Dane Evans is an unknown.

He came to the league with little fanfare and has spent his entire CFL career in relative obscurity. That is about to change, because after Jeremiah Masoli tore his ACL in Friday’s win over the Bombers, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are now Dane Evans’ team.

So while people wonder what the change in quarterback means for the Ticats, let’s get to know Dane Evans a little more, shall we.

Evans is from Sanger, Texas, a tiny town with a population of fewer than 7,000 people. After a standout high school career, Evans committed to the University of Tulsa, where he was a four-year starter for the Golden Hurricane.

While Evans’ Tulsa teams didn’t win many games, he did lead them to a 10-3 mark in his senior season, which was capped with a 55-10 Miami Beach Bowl win over Central Michigan. In his final collegiate game, Evans threw for 304 yards and five touchdowns en route to being named game MVP. It was a stellar capper to a prolific career for Evans at Tulsa, where he left as the school’s all-time leader in passing yards and touchdowns, records that still stand today.

Evans entered the NFL draft in 2017, while he was not selected, he did attend training camp with the Philadelphia Eagles that summer. He was released by the Eagles on September 1 and that is when the Ticats came calling. Evans signed with the Ticats in October 2017, when the annual practice roster expansion occurs.

In 2018, Evans came back to the Ticats and started the season as the team’s No. 3 quarterback behind Masoli and Johnny Manziel. When Manziel was dealt to the Montreal Alouettes for a king’s ransom last July, Evans was promoted to the primary backup role.

Many have said that one of the reasons the Ticats were comfortable dealing Manziel is because of how Evans had looked in training camp and in practice. With Manziel out of the way, Evans was the next man up after Masoli.

Evans saw very little playing time in 2018 despite dressing for all 18 games, but it was his Week 21 start against the Johnny Manziel-led Alouettes that gave Evans his first significant action in the CFL.

Evans didn’t light the world on fire, but he played fairly well, going 22-of-37 for 315 yards with two touchdown tosses and two interceptions. He also added another 24 yards on the ground on seven carries and the Ticats would ultimately lose that meaningless game – they had already clinched second in the East — 30-28. Evans did nearly engineer a winning drive in the fourth quarter. All in all, it was a solid, if unspectacular debut, for the former Golden Hurricane.

But the Ticats clearly like what they saw in Evans, because this past off-season they inked him to a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Hamilton until after the 2021 season. It is unlikely the team envisioned Evans taking over this early into that new deal, but it is obvious that the Ticats are high on Evans.

Given what Evans has physically — a rocket for an arm, great timing and precision. Mentally — Evans’ father was his high school coach, and Evans was ready to get into coaching just before the Ticats called — he has all the makings of a future top-level player.

And before you laugh at that, think back to 2012, when you didn’t know who Mike Reilly, Bo Levi Mitchell, Zach Collaros and Trevor Harris were. When they were just guys in second- and third-string roles looking for a chance. None of those players came to the league with any sort of ballyhoo, but they all became regarded as some of the league’s best players.

And that is the story of most QBs who come to the CFL. There is no hype, no being the No. 1 overall pick in the draft (and the pressure that comes with it). Just guys who for one reason or another didn’t stick in the NFL and come north to continue their careers.

I am not here to say that Dane Evans is the next Mike Reilly or Bo Levi Mitchell, because those are unfair comparisons to make, but when Reilly and Mitchell both started out, we weren’t saying they would be the next Henry Burris or Anthony Calvillo either. They got their chance and made the most of it; now Dane Evans has that chance, and we will get to see what he does with it over the next 12 weeks.

So who is Dane Evans? We are about to find out.

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