Damon Evans opens up during visit to ATL

Making one of his few public appearances since a DUI arrest cost him his job as Georgia’s athletic director in 2010, Damon Evans on Friday described his post-UGA life as a mixture of sadness about what he lost and gratitude about what he found.

What he lost, Evans said after appearing on a panel discussion at Morehouse College about sports careers, was the job of his dreams.

“I mean, come on, man, I was the AD at the University of Georgia,” Evans said. “I was in a great position.”

What he found, he said, is a happy new life with his wife and two kids in Boston, a satisfying job in the data-storage field and a better feeling when he looks in the mirror.

“I learned a lot about myself,” Evans said. “Sometimes, through the storms, you come out on the other end ... a better person.”

Evans was forced out as Georgia’s athletic director within days of his June 30, 2010, arrest in Atlanta on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol. A 28-year-old woman, not his wife, was in the car with him at the time. Evans later pleaded guilty to DUI and was sentenced to 12 months of probation and 40 hours of community service.

He moved to Boston soon after the arrest and began work as vice president of business development and strategy for Markley Group, a large data-storage business headed by UGA graduate and Evans friend Jeffrey Markley. Evans said he continues to enjoy the job.

After leaving Athens, Evans adopted a low profile, declining or avoiding interview requests. But he showed no reluctance to talk about the past during Friday’s visit to Atlanta.

The students who attended the panel discussion entitled “So You Want to Become a Sports Agent, Athletic Director or General Manager,” hosted by Morehouse’s journalism and sports program, understandably were more interested in how to prepare for such careers than in Evans’ past. But when the panel’s moderator asked Evans, one of four participants, about his “career-altering learning experience,” the former AD did not hesitate to tackle the topic.

“I made a major mistake in my personal life and my professional life. ... It took me a long, long, long time to come to grips with what I had done,” Evans, 42, said. “First and foremost, it was devastating on my family.

“... I want everyone here to understand: The University of Georgia didn’t do anything to Damon Evans. All the University of Georgia did was give me a wonderful opportunity, the opportunity to earn an education [and] play football at one of the premiere programs in the country. And then Michael Adams, the president of the University of Georgia, gave me one of the best opportunities I could ever have [as] athletic director. I let him down. I let down my mentors, Vince Dooley and all the people who believed in me.

“... Along the way, one might say I got lost. I should have never been in that situation that night.”

In an interview after the panel discussion, Evans called the DUI arrest and aftermath “the most difficult thing I have ever gone through in my life,” but said he hopes others can benefit from his mistakes.

“I think it’s good to talk about it. Maybe it helps people, and it helps me as well,” Evans said. “I don’t have anything to hide from. There’s nothing I can hide from. What happened happened. I just move forward.”

Evans credits his family for helping him through the tough times.

“My wife is an incredible woman, a strong lady [who] stuck by me,” he said. “The kids have been incredible. My parents, the in-laws — everyone has been very supportive.

“There is nothing more important than family. You can tend to take your family for granted. Unfortunately, I did. But it has brought me a lot closer to my family.”

Evans acknowledged his new life and career are vastly different from the fast-paced role of a major-college athletic director, “but it’s been good because it has allowed me to learn a new skill-set.” He was noncommittal on whether he would like to be an athletic director again.

“There are parts of me that say yes, because there is a lot of unfinished business I have,” he said. “But I don’t want to be unrealistic. ... I love athletics, but I also love what I’m doing right now.”

He has learned not to try to predict the future because, well, “I thought I would be at Georgia for 30 years.”

He expressed regret that he hasn’t been able to see Georgia’s expanded Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall and renovated Stegeman Coliseum, construction projects that began under his watch. He often watches the Bulldogs on television, but thinks it’s too soon to attend a game.

“I think there’s still a healing process for me personally and maybe for the institution as well,” he said. “If right now me rooting and cheering from afar is the best thing to do, then that’s what I’ll do. But hopefully one day I’ll have the chance to go back.”

Even watching on TV can be painful: “Those memories come back. ‘I was standing on that sideline.’ ‘I was sitting up in that box.’ ‘I was talking to coach Richt.’ I don’t get to do those things anymore.”

While having breakfast at his Atlanta hotel Friday morning, Evans was surprised to see a person from his past: Adams.

The UGA president was in town for a separate speaking engagement, less than five miles from Evans’.

“It was great to see him,” Evans said.

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