Few players possess the fire that still burns inside Bucs’ Mike Evans

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TAMPA — Time may be marching on for Mike Evans, who is entering his ninth NFL season. But it’s not standing next to the Bucs receiver, tapping its wristwatch.

That’s because Evans’ numbing consistency ― he has a league-record eight consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons― is second only to his competitiveness.

Cornerback Carlton Davis, who shadows the best receivers in the league each week, says lining up across from Evans in practice has been the biggest challenge of his career.

“He has the size. He has that sneaky speed. He’s sneaky quick,” Davis said. “But what people don’t understand is Mike is a hell of a competitor. I don’t even think people understand, there’s days where it’s like day six of camp, he’s going hard. My legs hurt, and I’m like barely getting out of my pedal. And he’s full-speed, full-go, and he’s on a different timing than everybody else. He wants it more.

“You can just tell that he wants it more. He has the physical abilities. He can do it all, but his mental and how he approaches the game is so much different and just underrated. I don’t think a lot of people understand that: he’s a monster, you know, to go up against every day because he doesn’t like to lose. And when he loses, he gets really mad. And you don’t want to see Mike mad.”

Evans is back at the Bucs’ training facility this week for the team’s mandatory minicamp. It’s been a busy offseason. Last month, Evans and his wife, Ashli, welcomed their third child, Aliyah Nicole. Evans has a daughter, Mackenzie, from a previous relationship.

On Saturday, the Mike Evans Family Foundation will host its inaugural gala at the Tampa Marriott Water Street and honor 13 Pillars of Strength in the community, a list that includes former Bucs head coach Bruce Arians, chief operating officer Brian Ford, director of player personnel John Spytek and his wife, as well as several teammates.

“It means everything,” Evans said of his foundation, which focuses on empowering youth, encouraging education and taking a stand against domestic violence.

“I’ve been so blessed to be in this position, and I’m always going to pay it forward. It’s what I was taught, it’s how I was raised, and I’m just super blessed, and I’ll always do this. It gives me a lot of joy to give back.”

On the field, Evans may have to produce even more this season. That’s because fellow receiver Chris Godwin is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in a loss to the Saints in December. The Bucs signed Falcons free agent Russell Gage.

“Russ was a nice pickup this offseason, obviously. I need to get some work in with him,” Evans said. “Watched him play a few years in Atlanta. He can play. He’s definitely going to help our team. Obviously, we want Chris back ASAP. He’s one of the best players in the league, one of our leaders. We want him back. And I just try to do my thing. Every year, I’m just trying to be the best that I can be, and hopefully this will be one of my best seasons.”

Evans continues to build on his record for consecutive 1,000-yard receiving seasons to start his career. This year, he could pass another milestone. He needs only 699 receiving yards to reach the 10,000-yard mark, with no signs of slowing down.

Perhaps more rare is the fact that at a position that produces divas, Evans has been known for his unselfishness. He embraced the additions of players such as receiver Antonio Brown and tight end Rob Gronkowski, sacrificing personal accomplishments for the team goal of winning another Super Bowl.

Evans’ chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady also has improved each season. He said he was surprised ― maybe even ebullient ― when Brady decided to end his retirement after six weeks and return to the Bucs.

“I was down here, and then I went up here,” Evans said, lowering then raising his left hand. “I had no reason to believe (Brady) would come back. He’s done everything. Made a lot of money. Best career ever, and still wants so play. I mean, he just loves this game, loves his teammates and he wants to win. He said a sour taste was left in his mouth. There’s one in mine ,as well. Happy we got him back for at least another year.

“It’s added motivation. Everybody is already as motivated as can be. This is our job. This is our livelihood. We do it for our families and things like that. But a guy who doesn’t have to do it, (Brady) just loves it so much and he makes you want to win. He demands that, and it’s added motivation.”

This week, Evans joined a group of receivers that includes a handful of undrafted free agents. Hard to believe he’s the old man of the group. Harder still, when you see him whip everybody he lines up against.

“All these young guys, they come in and give me extra motivation because they’ve just got so much extra juice and they want to play,” Evans said. “This is their dream. They want to make it. Watching them work, it inspires me, so they’ve been doing great and I hope I can help along the way.”

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