Wednesday, December 11, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Q & A: Evans learning from his friends

Seattle Times staff reporter

Two of Heath Evans' best friends on the Seahawks are the two players he backs up. There is running back Shaun Alexander, whose locker-room space is right next to his, and also fullback Mack Strong, just a few stalls down.

The three Southerners share a friendship forged in spirituality, faith and mutual respect. Evans is the youngest of the trio, the second-year fullback who has looked to the two for advice, inspiration and friendship as he builds his NFL career.

Part of that process is getting more playing time, and Evans' snaps have increased as the season has progressed. Injuries have found their way into the Seahawks' backfield, affecting both Alexander and Strong at times and moving Evans into the starting lineup at fullback in Week 9 at Arizona. This past Sunday against Philadelphia, Evans took over as the running back when Alexander had to miss much of the fourth quarter with back spasms.

The 6-foot, 252-pound workhorse from Auburn University has drawn good reviews for his play this season, and is versatile and quick enough to be used as a receiver, return specialist, and key member of the punt- and kick-return teams.

In the following interview, he discusses a key play in last Sunday's game, his friendship with Alexander and Strong, gaining more NFL experience and keeping high hopes for the Seahawks in the future.

Seattle Times: OK, let's get this one out of the way. What happened on the play when (punter) Jeff Feagles took that hard hit in the Philadelphia game, and it looked like someone or some people missed an assignment?

Heath Evans: You know (with a laugh), we don't pass the blame around here. My position on that is to erase everyone's mistakes. I have my responsibility, but I'm kind of in control of everybody out there, so it's something that we've practiced many times (punt-coverage blocking), and we're all allowed to mistakes here and there.

ST: You say you're in charge — Does that mean you have to be out there counting how many people are on the field and making sure everyone has someone to block? You have to worry about that, and then you have to worry about who you're going to hit?

HE: I called a "35," which means (snapper) J.P. Darche had three guys on the left of him and five guys on his right. I directed J.P. to go back to the left, because they (Eagles) were going to take two guys and try to bring them back around to our left side. We didn't have enough men to block, so I kind of called their bluff, and we just had one mental error on the right side. That stuff gets hard, because guys move around, and if you're not dead set on your rules and your technique, then a guy like No. 94 (the Eagles' N.D. Kalu, who drilled Feagles before he could kick), he's fast and strong and big. The game works this way. I heard Tom Jackson killed me on ESPN (Sunday) night, but that's all right.

ST: Coach Holmgren described you as a fullback with a halfback's mentality. Is that accurate about you?

HE: Yeah. I've gotten so many more opportunities to play tailback (in Seattle). In high school, that's all I was, and in college, it seemed to be every time we got in trouble and needed someone to get yardage, they'd throw me in at tailback. In college, I got to play fullback steadily from my junior year, and that was it. It doesn't matter, I just want to be on the field.

ST: You're a versatile guy. You play running back, fullback, special teams, returning kicks. How do you handle it all?

HE: It's not that hard. Once you get the offense down, it's not that bad. Special teams, you just kind of go out there and play. You're on it week to week and it's pretty simple.

ST: What's your relationship like with Shaun Alexander?

HE: Shaun and I are best friends. Everyone kind of jokes around about it, him being an Alabama guy and me being an Auburn guy, but we share the same faith in Jesus, and I'm his fullback, he's my tailback, and that's the way the bond has kind of gone. I don't know how we click so well, we just do.

ST: With so many young guys on this team, does that help keep things positive and light despite the 4-9 record?

HE: I think so. There's never a letdown, but I think you just see that we have a bright future. If we keep the nucleus of guys around here, we know we're going to be great. Not good. We know we're going to be great. I feel bad for some of the older guys that are looking to win a championship before they get out. Hopefully some of these guys, like (John) Randle and others, will be around another (season), so next year, when we do blow up, they'll still be here to be a part of it. We need them, honestly.

ST: How has Mack Strong helped you?

HE: Oh man, Mack's the best. Mack's the only guy in this league that I'd be comfortable being a backup to. Now we're kind of sharing time, but even last year and the first half of this year, he's just kind of taken me under his wing and made this transition so easy for me. We're (the Evans family) over at his house every Tuesday night for Bible study, and his little boy is, like, one of my best friends and he's only, like, 13, 14 months old. I play with him all the time.

ST: A lot of guys on this team are getting more playing time this season, a few maybe even more than they envisioned. Will that give them confidence for the rest of this season going into next?

HE: You just take your bumps and bruises earlier than expected, and that's good. It will speed the process up of getting where we want to be, which will be a championship contender every year. You see guys like Koren (Robinson), D-Jack (Darrell Jackson) and Shaun and Matt (Hasselbeck), so many guys. Even on defense, you look around and so many of these guys are so young. There's still so much we can learn.


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