Safety Marwin Evans' performance right on the money for Packers
GREEN BAY - When Marwin Evans first told fellow Green Bay Packers safeties his nickname — ”Money” — they laughed.
“Everybody was like, ‘Oh, heck no. Hell no, we ain’t calling you that,’” Ha Ha Clinton-Dix said of the moment in 2016. “He hadn’t made a play here. He hadn’t played a snap.”
But then came OTA's and Evans, a Milwaukee native who signed with the Packers as an undrafted free agent in 2016, began to make plays. His toughness and hard-hitting ability jumped out, as did his work ethic.
In time, the nickname stuck and so, too, did Evans on Green Bay’s 53-man roster. The former Oak Creek cornerback played 216 regular-season special-teams snaps last year, fifth most on the team, and finished tied for second with nine tackles, production that proved worthy enough for a return to training camp this season.
And although the competition level among Packers safeties is similar, his confidence level is not.
“Last year, I didn’t know what to expect,” Evans said. “This time, I know what’s about to happen. I know what’s going to be thrown my way, so I’m a little more prepared and a little more at ease.”
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The change has been evident in Evans’ play this summer. He has greatly improved his safety play, showing command of the position and the secondary when he’s in the game with the second- and third-team units.
In the exhibition opener against Philadelphia on Thursday night, Evans led the Packers in tackles with six and made probably the most impressive defensive play of the night.
Playing with the third team late in the fourth quarter, Evans raced downfield to cut off a deep route and intercept quarterback Dane Evans’ long pass. The safety bailed out cornerback Donatello Brown, who had lost a step to receiver Shelton Gibson, and beat both to the ball for the interception.
“I went through my progression, seeing what threats I had, seeing the vertical threats, looking around to see who could be coming down the field,” Evans said. “As I’m looking around, I see the receiver coming down and I looked at the QB and the QB was throwing the ball.
“I was tracking the guy, going in to make contact with the guy. At the last minute, I look up to make a play on the ball. And I end up coming up with it.”
Players who make interceptions earn attention from the coaches, but the way Evans has played the entire camp has caused just about everyone to take notice. Instead of grinding through the defensive playbook, unsure how the opposition might test him, he’s starting to see all the action in front of him.
“Way more than compared last year,” Evans said. “I’m coming into a system I know now. As far as last year, you’re always on the edge. You don’t know what to expect.”
The 5-11, 211-pound Evans went through the same process at Utah State. After one year at Rochester (Minn.) Community College and one year at Highland (Kan.) Community College, Evans red-shirted in 2013 and served as a backup in ’14 in Logan, Utah.
Then things clicked in during his senior season. He finished with 73 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, two sacks, an interception, five pass break-ups and two forced fumbles.
“He was a stud,” said Packers linebacker Kyler Fackrell, who played with Evans at Utah State. “He was a hard hitter, and that’s definitely something he’s brought.
“He was good in coverage then, but that’s definitely where he’s stepped up since he’s been with Green Bay.”
Evans proved worthy of a shot with the Packers thanks to a pro day in which he recorded a 42-inch vertical jump and 19 reps on the bench press. The vertical was better than any of the 300-plus players at the combine and his bench press was tied for third among defensive backs.
That first meeting, the one in which Evans was asked about the nickname he has been called since his late high school years, he was shy, according to Clinton-Dix. Evans’ high school coach at Oak Creek, Mike Bartholomew, remembers that quality.
“That’s his nature,” Bartholomew said. “He’s living the dream, but I'll tell you one thing, He’s worked for it.”
Admittedly, playing in Green Bay was Evans’ dream. He takes pride in putting on the green and gold No. 25 jersey daily.
“I can only imagine being from Milwaukee and playing for the Green Bay Packers,” said Clinton-Dix, who is an Orlando native. “That’s like me playing playing basketball for the Magic."
Seeing the likes of Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett and locker mate Kentrell Brice compete at practice has driven Evans. So, too, has Packers second-round pick Josh Jones.
Still, Evans approaches every day with the mindset written in his Instagram bio: “the only way to predict the future is to create it.”
“We push each other,” Evans said. “We all hold ourselves accountable to make plays, to do the right thing, to know the playbook and to be ready when your name is called.”
Like it was in practice early in camp. That day, he intercepted quarterback Joe Callahan over the middle of the field. Plays like that lead to plays like he made against the Eagles and are why the Packers signed him and have kept him.
They’re also why you can hear Clinton-Dix yelling out “Yeah, Money,” during practice.
“He could probably start for any of the 31 teams in this league,” Clinton-Dix said. “He knows the scheme. He knows what he’s doing. I like him a lot.”
Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed