You might not hear a lot about Heath Evans, but if youÕre a Patriots fan, you should know him. The fullback’s job as lead blocker is to help open up holes for New England’s running backs. This season, the team has fielded a rotating group of running backs because of injuries. Despite those injuries, the Pats rank seventh in the NFL in rushing.
Evans has done an impressive job opening up holes in his 3½ years with the Patriots, but his work off the field is even more impressive. After his first season in New England, he created the Heath Evans Foundation (heathevans.org), a charity dedicated to helping children and families affected by sexual abuse. It’s a cause close to the heart of Evans, whose wife, Bethann, was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. The Evans family has used her story, and Heath’s high profile, to bring light to a subject most people would rather avoid.
TC: You actually watched your wife go through this healing process. It’s one thing to raise money, but you’re obviously very involved in trying to help others get through this.
Evans: We hire the best counselors money can buy. I always want people to understand that we aren’t doing the counseling. We are the friend, the big brother or big sister, the mommy or daddy influence that may be missing. We’re the mentor. My wife and I love the interaction that we get with some of these children that we’ve had the opportunity to bring into the foundation and really help them and their families out. The help that we most desire for these kids is done on a one-on-one basis with counselors that have been trained specifically for the sexual-abuse issue. Ultimately, that is what was used to help my beautiful bride through the tough times that she had to walk through.
TC: Have you seen what this can do for these kids?
Evans: Definitely so. There’s a young lady that calls my wife once or twice a week. She had just changed counselors about a month ago, and this is a girl that had been raped repeatedly by her biological father. This is a girl, the moment you meet her, you know she’s full of pain and scars and emotional heartache. She’s very reserved, very closed off. This is a girl we’ve known for over a year now, and after her first counseling session, she calls Bethann and expresses a side of her that she’s never shown before. A side of excitement, a side of hope that she didn’t necessarily know that she’d ever have in her life. That was literally after one session with a different counselor who was able to meet her emotionally at the point of her needs. That’s the stuff that excites us; those are the storylines that keep us going. That’s what we want to see in the lives of as many children as we possibly can.
TC: These are not easy things to talk about. These are not easy issues to make public.
Evans: No, not at all. And that’s really one of our main initiatives. To make known that in most big cities, in a city like Boston, two out of five young ladies before the age of 18 will have probably been victim of some type of sexual abuse. Some would tell you three out of five. These aren’t my statistics that we’re making up. These are statistics that you can go Google or find on your own. And these are only the ones that are being reported. …. We just want to bring light to the subject matter so kids fully understand that they’re not the only ones. Then they can come forward, because if they looked around in a classroom of 30 people, you could probably find a half-dozen or so children who have walked through this or experienced some of the same types of situations.
TC: It takes money to do this. You held a raffle to see the Celtics’ opening night game with you and some teammates. How’d that go?
Evans: It went great. We raised almost $55,000, and it was a great night.
TC: At various points, the Patriots have lost Laurence Maroney, Sammy Morris, and LaMont Jordan to injuries, yet the unit has remained productive. What does that say about the depth and caliber of players you have on this team?
Evans: We’re all talented in different ways. I think that goes back to praising Bill Belichick and Scott Pioli for knowing what this team needs and creating depth that maybe other teams don’t have. At the end of the day, it says more about the coaching and the offensive line than it does about the backs. That’s what I love about these guys that I go to work with every day. We’re blessed to have those five guys in front of us. You talk about three Pro Bowlers, then you talk about guys like Nick Kazcur and Steve Neal and Billy Yates that are not Pro Bowlers but are equally good. We go as far as they take us. They deserve the praise.
TC: We live in a fantasy football world. I’m not sure if a lot of fans spend a lot of time thinking about the fullback. Seems like a position that requires selflessness.
Evans: Definitely in some offenses more than others. I get some touches on short yardage here and there. Last year I was a goal-line back for a while until some other guys got healthy. All in all, you’re kind of a glorified guard. You’re called on to pound it up in there and open up some holes, and you know what? I love it. It fits my personality. Everyone wants to be scoring touchdowns and rushing for a bunch of yardage, but at the end of the day there’s really not much better in life than being a piece of a puzzle on a great team, being with a bunch of guys who really put team first before their own individual stats.
TC: You’ve stayed very durable since you came here. Is there a secret to it? Conditioning? Luck? A combination of both?
Evans: Luck! [laughs] I think it’s a bit of everything. I think it’s a serious off-season regime. I think it’s preparation. Obviously, it’s a very violent game — you have the opportunity to get hurt on every play — but there are some guys who are more durable than others. To have that next to your name in this league is definitely a plus.
TC: Success in the NFL would be enough for most men. Yet you’re going to touch lives in a much more profound way through the foundation. Do you hope someday to be remembered more for what you’ve done off the field than what you’ve done as a player?
Evans: There would be nothing that would bring me more joy than when I kick the bucket, hopefully not ’til I’m 75 or 80, that the dash between my two dates on my tombstone stands for something that hopefully put a major dent [in], or Lord willing a stop to, the epidemic we call sexual abuse. I believe my life is a tool to be used by the Lord to bless others. And most people that know me will tell you I love this game of football, but I could pretty much take it or leave it if I had to. This game gives me an opportunity to do more for people, it gives me a platform that will get people to listen, and get people to give to a cause that I support strictly because I have an NFL logo next to my name. There’s no replacing this platform.
OT contributor Tom Caron is the studio host of Boston Red Sox broadcasts on the New England Sports Network.
This blogger might want to review your comment before posting it.
This week's OT cover
OT beat writersMaureen Mullen brings you Red Sox information and insights.
Tom Wilcox covers the Patriots.
Scott Souza is all over the Celtics.
Danny Picard is on the ice with the Bruins.
Mike McDonald takes a look at the humorous side of Boston sports