TAMPA — New Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans didn’t really start playing football until he was a senior in high school. He was strictly a basketball player before that.
The transition from the basketball court to the gridiron has gone quite smoothly, though, largely because the Bucs’ 2014 first-round draft pick plays football much like he played basketball.
“When you see me going for a catch, I treat it like it’s a rebound,’’ the 6-foot-5, 231-pound Evans said during an introductory news conference at One Buc Place on Friday afternoon.
“I just use my God-given talent and my big body to box guys out on those tough catches. You’ve got to know how get into position for those, so the transition has been easy. It’s actually been easier than it looks.’’
Evans is hoping his transition to the NFL proves to be a smooth one as well. It should, as long as the Galveston, Texas, native can adjust to catching passes from a different kind of quarterback.
Evans, who caught 151 passes for 2,499 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons at A&M, grew accustomed to working with the ultra-mobile quarterback Johnny Manziel, who was drafted 22nd overall by the Browns.
Now he’ll be working with quarterbacks Josh McCown and Mike Glennon, neither of whom is very mobile. But Evans believes the change could prove quite beneficial for him.
“They probably don’t run as much (as Manziel), so maybe there will be a few more balls to go around,’’ Evans said. “But I think I’ll make the transition just fine.’’
Evans doesn’t claim to have made the successful transition from basketball to football all on his own. He had a lot of help along the way from his coaches, including one of the new Bucs coaches.
Strength and conditioning coach Dave Kennedy came to Tampa Bay this year after spending the previous six in the same capacity at A&M. It was Kennedy, Evans said, who helped him transform his body into that of a rough and tumble football player.
“My first year coming in (at A&M) I was 205 pounds,’’ Evans said. “But he got me to 235 by the end of the year, and it was good weight. He’s a great strength coach and I’m happy to be working with him again.’’
Evans doesn’t just play tough. He talks tough, too. He admits to being a bit of a trash talker, though Evans wasn’t talking tough after being selected seventh overall by the Bucs.
The second-rated receiver behind Sammy Watkins of Clemson, who was selected at No. 4 by Buffalo, Evans admitted his reaction to being drafted belied the tough persona he tries to carry onto the football field.
“If you watched the draft last night, you saw me get emotional, crying like a baby,’’ Evans said. “I didn’t expect to do that. It was just that I realized, my dreams were finally coming true.’’
Evans said he had two dreams as a kid growing up. One one was to be a basketball star. The other was to be a football star. His draft dream, he said, was to be a Buccaneer.
“And now that I’m here,’’ Evans said, “I’ll work to be the best player I can be, the best teammate I can be and help the team win games.’’