Mid-September on a Friday night smack in the middle of Colorado, banks of lights and cheers from fans shine down onto the green turf, filling it with energy.
Palmer Ridge quarterback Ty Evans, on the verge of his junior season, lives for this moment.
“Friday night lights come and I’m in heaven,” Evans said. “Even if we have a bad game, it’s still the most fun that I’ve ever had. I think that shows in how competitive I am. I’m definitely a guy that hates to lose.”
His coach, Tom Pulford, sees something deeper with Evans.
“Ty Evans is a better human being than he is a quarterback and that’s saying a lot given the skillset that he possesses as a quarterback,” Pulford said as he sifted through memories of Evans stopping to ask young kids watching practice from the sidelines how their day is going.
Evans is in the midst of a busy summer of traveling as he’s visited six colleges and may soon be adding a seventh in the University of Washington.
“The recruiting process is a grind. It takes a lot out of you, it takes a lot out of your family,” Pulford said. “There’s a financial piece that goes with getting yourself to those college campuses to meet with coaches and showcasing what you can do in a short turnaround. You’re at one school one day, driving nine hours to another school the next day.”
Evans has the vision downfield, the footwork, the standout arm. A polished Swiss Army knife of skills and attributes.
He has the offers from five Division I football programs: Arkansas, Colorado, Colorado State, Kansas State, Northwestern.
“Before he had offers, he screamed frustration because he felt like he was doing all the right things. He felt like he had a good idea of the timeline of when big schools offer quarterbacks,” Pulford said. “In his mind, when he wasn’t getting offers in the timeline that he should be, there was a lot of frustration and heartache. In order for Ty to be successful at the high school level and through the recruiting process and at the next level, it takes a lot of people being on the same page.
“From parents to coaches — our offensive coordinator, offensive position coaches — all those coaches need to be on the same page in terms of knowing what their role is in the process.”
But what Evans thinks truly sets him apart is passion.
“I haven’t met another person that truly shares that same passion with me,” Evans said. “I wake up every morning and the first thing I want to do is go lift or go run. Running sounds terrible, but if it helps me on the field, then that’s what I have to do. Every day that’s what I look forward to: going to practice and going to grind.”
What Pulford thinks sets Evans apart is work ethic.
“He works like he’s the number two guy — like he’s the number two quarterback and he’s got something to prove,” Pulford said. “He does that every day in the weight room, he does it every day out in speed and agility, he does it every time he goes out and works with a coach that’s outside of our program.
“What Ty brings to the table is a high degree of integrity, an elite work ethic and a desire to be successful in anything that he does. Anytime you have someone like that, regardless of what position he plays, it makes your team better because everybody starts working to that standard.”
As a result, the Bears go as Evans goes. In a 2016 campaign with 3,130 passing yards, 30 touchdowns and just five interceptions, Evans had a 116.0 quarterback rating.
“People that have these kinds of opportunities and have things like this come into their life, it can go two ways. It either makes you feel comfortable and allows you to be lazy or it makes you more motivated,” Evans said. “I know I’m going to be playing at a higher level, so I know I need to push myself more than anyone else. There’s going to be people that doubt me, people that say, ‘Oh, he’s not good enough to play at a higher level, he’s not that good when he walks off the field.’ I want to shut those people up. Shut down all the doubters.”
In three games, Evans had a quarterback rating of less than 100. Palmer Ridge, which went 8-3 in Class 3A last season, lost all three of those games.
“The process is doing the right things for kids in our program so that collectively as a group, we achieve the best that we can,” Pulford said. “That happens when we pour into each individual and help them develop championship habits and help them to understand what their role is in the process so that they give their best effort. They overachieve as individuals and we overachieve as a team.”
Evans and Palmer Ridge are hungry to overachieve.
“Over the summer, our team as a whole has been focused on getting better everyday and trying to make eachother better,” Evans said. “If that’s getting a spot on scout offense or playing scout defense, the whole program is trying to make eachother better every day. We take every game one game at a time. We treat every game like a playoff game. It’s now or never because that could be the game that determines if you’re going to make the playoffs.”
Evans comes from a family that understands the process of recruiting very well. His sister Morgan played college volleyball at the University of Colorado-Colorado Springs, and his dad played baseball at the University of New Mexico. Evans’ other sister, Mariah, a former all-stater, plays volleyball at the University of North Carolina.
Evans and his dad would go to three-hour Saturday football workouts when he was an eight-year-old.
“As an eight-year-old, it’s hard to focus for three hours on anything,” Evans said. “He would definitely get on me and try to push me as hard as he could. At the time, I thought he was being a jerk and I really didn’t understand why he was pushing me so hard. Now, it’s shown me that he’s always been my biggest critic and my biggest fan.”
Those Saturday workouts have paid off so far and Evans listed his father as his most influential person in getting him to where he is today.
“I’d say it’s my dad. He’s the one who introduced me to football when I was four years old,” Evans said. “He’s always been the guy that got me out of the house to go throw. I would not be the type of player that I am without him. He’s always had my back. My dreams have become his dreams. It’s a special relationship.”
Evans knows what he’s looking for in a school when it comes time to make a decision.
“I want to get that home feeling from the campus and the community. I know football won’t always be great,” Evans said. “I’ll go through rough patches, that’s just life. You’ll have a bad game, you’ll have a bad week of practice, but I’m really looking forward to feeling that hometown feel in the community that I’m in. I want to go to a team with a good brotherhood — guys that I’ll be friends with for life.”
His coach, his family and his city will be rooting for him when he switches out Friday night lights for Saturdays.
“He understands that an offer is one thing. Doing something with that offer is another,” Pulford said. “Ty is getting close to feeling at peace with the recruiting process. I know that he has not made a decision yet, but the sense of urgency to go see 10 schools in the next whatever time, that’s not there. I pray he makes a decision where he feels great about the education that he’s going to get, the football program as a whole and his opportunity to contribute.
“When you can check all three of those boxes, you’ve found a university that’s good for you.”