Tanner McEvoy came to Wisconsin to play quarterback. And there are a lot of people who still want to see him get a shot there when he comes to camp, healthy, next spring.
If you peered into the defensive backfield Saturday in Madison, a rather intimidating No. 17 figure stood directly in center field.
And let’s be honest, every defense benefits from having a ball-hawking, hard-hitting safety roaming the position. He has a nose for the football, much like Jim Leohnard did when he raced the defensive backfield.
Having played in just eight games this season, he’s 12th on the team in tackles with 22, has a tackle for loss, one INT (second on the team), one pass broken up and two others defended. Well-rounded at it’s best.
Starting at safety for the Badgers wasn’t something McEvoy saw, most likely, when he came north. But he’s fitting the mold nicely and turning into someone offenses almost have to take into account when throwing the football.
His physical play is part of why he’s dropped nicely into one of the Nation’s best defenses. It showed this weekend again as he made plays around the line of scrimmage, specifically on the edge.
“I’ve always kind of had that (physical style of play),” McEvoy said. “Playing safety back in high school and wide receiver, it’s a physical sport. You have to have that mindset at quarterback — though maybe the NFL guys slide more. But I’m all for it. I like being physical. It’s fun being the one hitting the person instead of getting hit, you know?”
Before coming to the Badgers this past off-season, McEvoy passed for 1,943 yards and 25 touchdowns, while throwing just six interceptions. All enroute to being named first-team All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference and ACCAC Offensive Player of the Year. To boot – he ran for 414 yards and scored six touchdowns and was first-team All-Western States Football League.
With 5 more tackles this past weekend, McEvoy’s shown his athletic talents don’t stop with throwing and running the football. After injuring his wrist and ending all hopes of a QB spot this season, coaches knew they’d have to find a way to get a talented, 6-6, 230-lb specimen on the field. McEvoy knew it, also, and accepted the change.
“With my injury, I realized (the change) had to happen. I hate sitting on the bench and watching things,” he said. “I really wanted to play. So I accepted it. Obviously, the first couple of minutes I was like, shoot, I’m not going to get to play quarterback. But that just comes with an injury. But then I changed my mindset and the coaches supported me, so we rolled with it like that.”
Coach Andersen spoke highly of McEvoy recently, stating the young man has shown a lot of maturity, poise and unselfishness with the position change.
“The key was Tanner accepting it,” Andersen said. “That’s what it’s all about. That’s why, in my mind, it is such a great story. … He could easily have gone into a shell and said, ‘Woe is me,’ and, ‘Why has this happened to me?’ And everything else that could come with it that you see a lot in sports. But he had none of it. I didn’t want to give him a wasted year. The move was really the last opportunity for him to have some success. It’s a tremendous story … of unselfishness.”