Missouri cornerback Akayleb Evans has the physical tools to be a key contributor in the NFL, there’s no doubt about that. But he also has the right intangibles to make an impact beyond the football field.
Evans’ college football career began at Tulsa, where he racked up 82 tackles, 11 pass breakups, one sack and a forced fumble. In 2021, he transferred to Missouri and reunited with secondary coach Aaron Fletcher.
In 11 games at Missouri, Evans had 28 tackles, six pass breakups and an interception. His decision to join the Tigers ended up being a smart move, as he was able to showcase what he can do against SEC talent.
We caught up with Akayleb Evans to discuss his only season at Missouri, why it’s so important to make an impact in his community, his best fit in the NFL and more.
The Spun: You started your career at Tulsa before making your way over to Missouri. What was that adjustment period like in the SEC?
Akayleb Evans: I graduated at Tulsa after three and a half years. My time there was great. I made a lot of great relationships with teammates and coaches, but I felt like it was time for me to take that next step. My position coach left for Missouri, which made the decision easy for me. The transition took me some time, but once the season started I was ready to go. Overall, I felt like it was a smooth transition from Tulsa to Missouri.
The Spun: I’ve seen you talk about being more than just a football player. What do you want people to remember you by?
AE: A guy that was more than an athlete. I can be a great football player, but if I don’t make an impact in my community, I won’t feel like I made a difference. That’s something that’s big for me and will continue to be big for me as I step into the NFL. I’ll have a bigger platform, which means I’ll have more responsibility on my plate. I want to help my community.
The Spun: You recently wrapped up your pro day. Were you satisfied with your performance?
AE: I was definitely satisfied. Pro day was just another opportunity for me to show my skillset to the coaches. I felt like the coaches and scouts there were impressed with my performance. It was a success.
The Spun: Who’s your favorite cornerback to study?
AE: I grew up liking Patrick Peterson. He was definitely the guy I grew up wanting to be. I also love watching Richard Sherman. I feel like I can learn a lot watching what they did in the NFL. I try to pick certain parts from their game and throw it into mine.
The Spun: What type of coverage best suits you?
AE: I would say press man. I feel like I do a good job of mixing it up. You can dictate a lot at the line of scrimmage when you play press coverage. I like the whole aspect of playing press coverage.
The Spun: You’re a really physical cornerback. Would you say your physicality is your best trait on the field?
AE: Definitely. I feel like that’s a mindset thing. You don’t have to have a whole bunch of talent to be physical. That’s all about effort.
The Spun: I’ve seen people call you a "late bloomer" because you weren’t a five-star recruit. Do you still approach the game with that underdog mindset?
AE: That underdog phase is definitely still a part of me. That’s just how I’ve gotten to this point. At the end of the day, I know that I’ll get to where I need to be in order to be successful in this league. I just always play with a chip on my shoulder, and I thrive with it.
The Spun: What has been the most challenging part of this football journey?
AE: I would say there’s a lot of time put in so you can perfect your craft. It’s a blessing that our job is to play a game. But I will say that going through my shoulder surgery in 2019 was tough. Dealing with that adversity was tough, but I was able to dive into who I am away from the field. It reassured my love for the game because I realized what it was like to not be able to play. Looking back at that moment, it all worked out for the best.
The Spun: What would it mean to you to see young fans wearing Akayleb Evans jerseys?
AE: I love that possibility because I was that same kid. I used to look up to players in the NFL. I always wanted to be in that position and be able to help out the community. It’d be a great chance for me to fulfill my purpose.
At 6-foot-2, Evans has the ideal size and length to continue playing his physical brand of football at the next level. Let’s not forget he also had a strong pro day, completing the 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds and posting a 36-inch vertical.
NFL fans should expect to hear Akayleb Evans’ name come off the draft board on either Day 2 or Day 3.
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