ATHENS -- Married to a doctor, his football career over and flush with nine years of NFL paychecks in his bank account, Demetric Evans could have relaxed at one of his homes in Dallas, Texas, or Walnut Creek, Calif., and contemplated his next entrepreneurial move.
Instead, Evans went back to school and completed his college degree. On Friday, he was among 10 former and current Georgia football players, and 27 student-athletes overall, who participated in graduation ceremonies.
Eleven years after last attending classes and playing football for the Bulldogs, the defensive end from Haynesville, La., earned a degree in child and family development.
"It was a great feeling to have the support of my family and friends on hand," Evans said. "To take a walk down memory lane with my wife and son was exciting for them both. Overall it was a joyous occasion, and I will forever cherish the moments."
Evans, who played football at Georgia under former coach Jim Donnan in 1997-2000, joined fellow NFL veteran Nic Clemons and eight current players for Friday's graduation walk at Stegeman Coliseum. Also picking up degrees were Justin Anderson (housing), Candler Cook (management), Eric Elliot (risk management), Bruce Figgins (communication studies), Ben Harden (housing), Josh Sailors (biology), Richard Samuel (sport management) and Trinton Sturdivant (finance).
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“It is a great day for the University of Georgia," Georgia coach Mark Richt. "We’ve been averaging about 19 football players a year graduating over the last 11 seasons. We’re just so proud of them and it’s fun to see those guys at the tail ends of their careers, and seeing their families and the young men themselves be so excited about getting that sheepskin."
Evans completed the coursework he needed, about a year’s worth, at San Jose State. On Thursday, Evans flew to Atlanta from San Francisco with his wife, young son and a small entourage of people that included his financial adviser, his agent, friends and other family members.
Asked why he’d go to such trouble and expense, Evans laughed and had a ready answer.
“Well, it’s something that I earned,” he said. “It’s something that I promised myself when I was in high school being recruited to become a college athlete.”
Evans' last contract with the San Francisco 49ers paid him $3.8 million. His wife, Dr. Aungel Evans, practices medicine in California. They also have a residence in Dallas, Texas.
Evans has always done the unexpected. When he graduated from Haynesville High in rural Louisiana, as one of the top prospects in the state, he signed with Georgia rather than follow the herd to nearby LSU. With the Bulldogs, he started only three games and wasn’t given much of a chance in the NFL. However, he made the Dallas Cowboys’ roster as an undrafted free agent and played nine NFL seasons.
Retired at 32, Evans said a lot of people expected him to relax and play a lot of golf. Instead, he chose to finish his undergrad work and is contemplating pursuing a graduate degree.
“I want to change people’s lives, because I grew up in a small town in a single-parent home where getting a college degree and playing in the NFL seemed unachievable,” Evans said. “Not only have I finished my degree, but I played in the NFL for three times the life expectancy of the average player. I’m an example of what hard work and dedication can bring.”
While in the NFL, Evans founded the “92 Blessings Foundation.” Named for the jersey he wore most of his football career, he would select 92 families each year to receive food and gifts during the holidays.
Now he envisions a new mission.
“I’m hoping to improve the literacy rate,” he said. “I want to raise funds to start an after-school program in my hometown for underprivileged kids, and all kids really, to prepare for the ACT and SAT and to get tutoring for classes they're struggling in so they can increase their GPA and compete for college scholarships.”
As for his own future, Evans is not sure yet exactly what’s in store.
“That’s the blessing of it, that I don’t have to rush to figure out what’s next,” Evans said. “My time is up in the NFL. I enjoyed each moment and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But now it’s on to a new adventure.”