ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Chris Evans may have the busiest weekends in college football.
The Michigan running back plays on Saturdays and calls plays on Sundays as a flag football coach.
The Wolverines (8-3, 5-3 Big Ten) hope Evans makes all the right moves against No. 8 Ohio State (9-2, 7-1) on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
To spoil the Buckeyes’ chance of playing for a national championship, Michigan may need Evans and the rest of its running backs to combine for the kind of day Tshimanga Biakabutuka had for the Wolverines in 1995 when he ran for 313 yards against in one of the finest performances and biggest upsets in the rivalry.
Evans ran for just 18 yards on six carries in last year’s 30-27 double-overtime loss, but the Buckeyes know he’s capable of more. They watched him run for 271 yards and three touchdowns in a two-game stretch before being held to 25 yards on 11 attempts in last week’s loss to No. 5 Wisconsin.
”He is a shifty guy,” Ohio State’s defensive end Tyquan Lewis Tyquan Lewis said. ”He has great vision.”
Win or lose, Evans plans to do what he often does the day after playing a game. He’ll drive a couple miles past the Big House to a facility with three indoors soccer fields to lead his two flag football teams with kids 10 to 12 years old. That’s where he was last Sunday morning – coaching in socks and sweats with a maize lanyard and whistle – about 13 hours after arriving home from a 24-10 loss on the road against the Badgers.
”I started thinking about the game plan on the flight home,” Evans told The Associated Press between his teams’ games. ”I just came out here with the mindset of what we were going to do and how we were going to attack it.”
His plan started with sending a message to the parents of his players.
”We got a text at 7:37 a.m. from him and he just played a game the day before in Wisconsin,” said Mike Bassett, whose son plays for Evans. ”I’ve lived here a long time and he’s the first Michigan player I’ve ever heard of doing anything like this.”
Evans is a show-and-tell coach.
He lines up at quarterback, running back, receiver, linebacker and defensive back to show the boys how it is done. Then, he puts the young players in six-man formations on offense and defense, and calls out audibles for the offense and schemes for the defense.
”Where you supposed to be?” he asked one child.
The young cornerback wasn’t sure.
”There,” Evans said, pointing to the flat.
After a series of pregame drills, his first of two teams went on to win 40-6 with him calling plays on offense from the middle of the field and on defense from the sideline.
”He’s really serious about this,” Pep Hamilton, a Michigan assistant coach whose son plays on one of the teams, said from the bleachers that overlook the field. ”It’s not for show.”
Evans tries to teach the kids life lessons as well as the fundamentals and techniques to help them in football. He has relayed stories about players he knew growing up in Indianapolis that had more talent than him, but they didn’t make it to college because of poor grades.
They also get to enjoy the perks of playing for a coach on a scholarship for the Wolverines, including occasional use of their football facilities.
”It’s every kid’s dream to have a coach like him,” said Demos Vulicevic, a sixth-grader who plays on one of Evans’ teams. ”And it doesn’t matter what happened in his game on Saturdays. Even if he loses, he comes in happy and ready to help us.”
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