Saints' Evans won't let Philly roots distract him

"I am a Sixers guy, a Flyers guy, a Phillies guy, and you never forget your hometown roots ," said Jahri Evans, a five-time Pro Bowl guard for New Orleans.
"I am a Sixers guy, a Flyers guy, a Phillies guy, and you never forget your hometown roots ," said Jahri Evans, a five-time Pro Bowl guard for New Orleans. (Associated Press)
Posted: January 05, 2014

METAIRIE, La. - New Orleans Saints five-time Pro Bowl guard Jahri Evans is awfully proud of his Philadelphia roots and over the years he hasn't hidden his affinity for the area's sports teams from his teammates.

This week, the pro-Philadelphia talk has stopped since Evans and his Saints teammates will be visiting Lincoln Financial Field for Saturday's wild-card game.

A proud alumnus of Frankford High, Evans used to get ribbed much more about his passion for Philadelphia. But this is his eighth season, so the novelty of teasing the 6-foot-4, 318-pounder has long passed.

"There was a time we used to give it to him for having those Eagles Fatheads on his bedroom wall," said offensive tackle Zach Strief. "No, we don't give him as much trouble the way we used to."

While Evans doesn't talk much about the Eagles anymore to his teammates, he is constantly promoting other Philadelphia teams.

"I am a Sixers guy, a Flyers guy, a Phillies guy, and you never forget your hometown roots," Evans said.

Evans insists that he would not derive any extra pleasure from beating the Eagles.

"It's not like I will play harder than I usually do," he said. "I just go out and play my best, and there would be no extra satisfaction in winning."

This season Evans was named to his fifth straight Pro Bowl. He has enjoyed a remarkable career after being a fourth-round draft choice from Bloomsburg University.

He didn't play during his senior year at Frankford because of a broken leg, but he received an academic scholarship to Bloomsburg, where he earned his degree in exercise science.

As a rookie in 2006, he became a Saints starter from the first day. His streak of 114 consecutive starts to begin his career was snapped when he suffered a hamstring injury Sept. 22 against Arizona.

Evans' first year with the Saints was also the initial season for head coach Sean Payton, so the two have grown together.

"The challenge always with a small-school player is just trying to watch the tape and evaluate sometimes who they're blocking," Payton said of Evans. "He was extremely dominant in college."

Payton soon found out that the dominance on the Division II level would extend to the NFL.

"His transition into our league happened immediately," Payton said.

There were several reasons Evans has prospered, according to Payton.

"He is strong, he is very smart, he, too, has been very durable, and I think he likes playing," Payton said. "He is powerful, he is good in his pass protections."

Evans has enjoyed quite a run with the Saints, which included winning the Super Bowl in the 2009 season.

This will be his ninth postseason game. The first one came against the Eagles, a 27-24 Saints win in New Orleans on Jan. 13, 2007.

"It was the second time we played them," he said, referring to a Saints regular season win at the Superdome, also by a 27-24 score. "We wound up having a good team and it was a good experience."

Of course that was in New Orleans. If anybody understands the greeting the Saints will receive Saturday night from Eagles fans it's Evans, since he used to be one of them.

"It is going to be a hostile environment," said Evans, who expects 20 to 30 friends and family members at the game. "The fans will be out there doing everything to try to get us off our game. But everybody in the locker room is a pro and we understand that."

Then pausing, he vowed, "It is not going to faze us."


mnarducci@phillynews.com

@sjnard

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