SOFI DRAFT LAB – A product of Division II Wingate, punter Ethan Evans felt good about his chances of getting drafted, but also was prepared for the possibility of starting his NFL career by signing with a team as a college free agent.
With those level-set expectations in mind, it would turn out that he didn't have to worry about the latter, as the Rams chose him in the sixth round of the 2023 NFL Draft on Saturday.
"Well, these past few days have kind of been one day because I haven't slept," Evans said after getting selected. "But I had the mindset that I had the abilities to get drafted, but also kind of knew there was a chance I wouldn't, so I already had it set in my mind like, 'hey, if I have to go in free agency and go compete, that's what I'll do. If I get drafted, that's great, but if don't, I'm just going to do the best that I can and whatever team offered me, just give them my all. But luckily, the Rams said hey, we're just going to pick you."
Evans had a good feeling about the Rams based on ho a pre-draft visit from new special teams coordinator Chase Blackburn went.
Blackburn attended Evans' pro day and took him out to dinner the night before, explaining the Rams' situation. They also spoke a few times after pro day. Blackburn had also texted Evans earlier this week to wish him luck, then the next time they spoke was when he got the call on Saturday that he was being drafted.
The Rams did not have a punter on their roster this spring until signing Evans, who is well aware of the opportunity that presents.
"Coming into a team that had no other punters on the roster, I think it's really cool," Evans said. "It kind of gives me and the other specialists a chance that will come in to kind of build our own legacy. I know a few years ago they did that with Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlein, and obviously that worked out very well for them. So I'm excited to get to work and build our own legacy and try to be the best special teams that we can."
At Wingate, Evans had experience with both punting and handling kickoffs, which was due in part to being mainly a kickoff specialist coming out of high school.
Evans said he never really punted in high school, but Wingate head coach Joe Reich told him he could see him becoming a really good punter, so he made him the starting punter his freshman year.
"My freshman year was okay, but after that season, I kind of backed off from kickoffs and palce kicking and just focused more on punting, and then eventually got to the point where my punting became better than my kickoffs," Evans said. "But kick outs have always been my main first love kicking. I was a soccer player for 15 years, something like that, and I was a goalie, so I just love running up and kicking the crap out of the ball."
Now, he's looking forward to the challenge of doing that as the stakes raise from transitioning from Division II to the NFL.
"That was my main goal," Evans said. "When I went to Wingate, there's only about 3,000 students on campus, but I kind of made it my goal, saying, 'hey, one school took a shot on me and that's all I need.' I just worked as hard as I could, to the point where I felt like I had the abilities to make it in the NFL. Just kept my head down and kept grinding through the three and a half years I was at Wingate, and honestly I wouldn't have it any other way."
Take a look at photos of new Los Angeles Rams punter Ethan Evans from his time at Wingate.