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Heath Evans a team player

Coach Belichick praised Heath Evans' versatility on Wednesday. Evans spoke with members of the press before taking off to Auburn, Alabama to watch his alma mater play during the bye week vacation.


Usually, when fullback Heath Evans goes in on goal-line plays, his biggest ambition is to beat the man he's trying to block so running backs Laurence Maroney or Corey Dillon can squeeze in behind him for a touchdown.

It's a role he happily accepts, and even takes great pleasure in.

"Most of the time when I put my hand in the dirt and I know, 'My block depends on whether this play is successful or unsuccessful.' I'm really confident that I'm going to go get the play," said Evans in a rare, outward display of confidence, which he qualified by saying, "And that's probably (only) been over the last 18 months, just where I feel like, 'I'm gonna beat that guy.'"

But in last Sunday's game against the Dolphins, it was Evans who got the glory when he scored the Pats final touchdown in their 20-10 ousting of the Phins. It was his first career touchdown, though this is his sixth NFL season.

"It was good," said Evans of the ensuing feeling. "I think it was probably more important to my family and friends and my wife. You know, being six years into this thing, they were all, 'Is it ever going to come?' It was good."

The modest Evans was more pleased about sealing the game than he was about reaching any kind of personal goal.

"I think literally my (first) thought was, 'OK, this Miami Dolphin game is pretty much out of reach now. Let's close this thing out and go home 4-1."

He was awarded a game ball for his performance, which Evans promptly brought home to give to his daughter.

In an NFL where running backs are notoriously selfish, overly concerned with stats and either boisterous or aloof in dealing with the media, Evans stands out.

One might think the touchdown, which came against his old home team (he grew up in West Palm Beach, Florida) and the franchise that cut him last year before the Pats grabbed him up, could have warranted some gloating or a few anti-Dolphin remarks. Evans was his usual, cheery but humble self.

According to coach Bill Belichick, there's another reason Evans stands out among backs.

"He's a very good, all-around versatile player," said Belichick. Evans' first touchdown came on a Tom Brady pass, not a run from the backfield.

"He's a big guy. He's built kind of like a fullback, but he's really a running back," said Belichick, who talked at length about Evans on Wednesday. "He ran the ball in college and we used him as a running back here last year in several games when we were a little short at that position. He's also a very good pass receiver. He's been contributing for us on special teams and in the kicking game, both in coverage and on the return units. He's a smart guy. He's good on blitz pickup.

"It's kind of hard to find guys like that, because like I said, his role last year was probably more as a runner and less as a blocker. This year, it's probably been a little more as a blocker and less as a runner, although he does both and can really do all three - run, block and catch."

Evans is versatile and powerful on the field, and extremely affable when he steps off it. He doesn't intentionally draw attention to himself in the locker room while the media is there, but when approached, he's as friendly as an old neighbor, albeit a physically intimidating one. He'll reach to shake your hand before you reach for his, and he's usually ribbing a rookie or goofing on another veteran when he's not conversing with members of the media.

"It sounds a little corny, but there's a warmth in this locker room, and I'm telling you it's a rarity," said Evans. "I think it makes this team and this club special. Everyone here appreciates it."

Unlike the stereotypical, give-me-the-ball attitude many running backs have, Evans is happy to do his part, whatever that may be.

"I fill a role here. What that is, half the time I don't know," the adaptable Evans joked, "But week-to-week, they say, 'We need you to accomplish this,' and that's what I work at."

"It's been a dream job for me," he said. "I enjoy playing special teams. I enjoy blocking. I enjoy catching. I enjoy running. And I love this locker room."

"Everyone's selfish a little bit," he admitted. "Sure, I'd love to be scoring 15 touchdowns a year and (having) hundred-yard games, but I think (lesser rewards are) a lot more gratifying when you've worked the way I have to mould myself into what this league needs me to be and what this organization needs me to be. And I'm just going to try to continue doing so."

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