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INDIANAPOLIS — Chris Evans spent his entire rookie season looking down at his uniform during games to make sure it was all real.

Fast forward, and the Ben Davis Class of 2016 graduate is off to Los Angeles to help the Bengals play for Cincinnati’s first-ever Super Bowl.

“It’s crazy. I can’t even believe I’m in the NFL,” said Evans. “I’ve been through so much, and to get here and then make it to the Super Bowl is once in a lifetime, literally.”

Evans primarily plays special teams for the Bengals, something he has been learning along the way over his first year in the league.

“In college and high school, I didn’t play special teams but now as the No. 3 back, it’s how I make my living,” said Evans. “I have to return kicks, make plays on kick return, take advantage of everything.”

Taking advantage of opportunities has been Evans’ motto throughout his life. His coaches at Ben Davis were not surprised to hear their former standout running back was selected in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Former Ben Davis head football coach Mike Kirschner knew Evans was special from an early age. He recognized Evans’ incredible athletic ability playing in youth leagues. When he got to high school, Kirschner realized his incredible work ethic.

On Thanksgiving 2014, Kirschner was in his office preparing for State Championship weekend when he heard someone in the weight room. He came out to find Evans, a part-time custodian at the school at the time, getting a workout in.

“When I asked him why he wasn’t at home, he told me ‘I don’t have time to take breaks’,” said Kirschner. “That’s when I knew he was cut from a different cloth.”

A few days later, Evans helped lead Ben Davis to a 6A title over Carmel. Bringing home the hardware was a goal he had when he started playing varsity football, but his real goal was to get to the Big Game.

“You dreamed about winning a Super Bowl way before you got to a state championship,” said Evans. “We won the Super Bowl in a video game when we were little. Actually being in the league and playing in the Super Bowl, you can’t explain it.”

The Ben Davis athletic tradition runs deep, producing Super Bowl winner Tandon Doss, former Miami Dolphin MarQuies Gray, USWNT Olympic gold medalist Lauren (Cheney) Holiday, and so many more. All of their jerseys are hanging from the wall of the weight room where they all trained, serving as a source of inspiration for current student athletes.

Ben Davis’ head strength coach Kevin Vanderbush has seen all of those names come and go over his career, adding to the legacy. Many people want a spot on the wall, but only a few make that a reality.

“He told me when he was here at this school, he looked at the jerseys and said I hope my jersey will be up there,” said Vanderbush.

Evans made his high school dream come true earlier this year, hanging his jersey alongside Ben Davis’ best.

“People don’t understand how big this is,” said Evans. “It might just look like a jersey on the wall, but to all of the athletes at Ben Davis, the alumni who have put in the blood, sweat, and tears in there, you’re edged in stone. I want these kids to know if I could do it, you can do it too.”

After the AFC Championship game, Evans made sure to call Kirschner while he was celebrating in the locker room to thank him for all of his support over the years, and that he would not made it to the NFL without his coach. Evans also told Kirschner it felt like winning Semi-States to go to the 2014 State Championship at Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I said Chris, ‘I think this is a little bigger than that’ and we laughed,” said Kirschner. “As a coach who’s been doing this for 38 years, that’s one of the neatest phone calls I’ve ever had the pleasure of receiving.”

Both Kirschner and Vanderbush are excited for the opportunity to watch one of their own take the field at SoFi Stadium. Kirschner will make sure to watch the game alone, so he can take in every moment, while Vanderbush will be scanning the screen for 25 on the field.

“It’s exciting someone from our program is doing so well,” said Vanderbush. “We’re proud that he’s overcome challenges to get there and he’s reached where he is because of hard work.”

Hard work met discipline for Evans, who is playing not just for his childhood self, but for Cincinnati, his current teammates, and every Bengal who came before him.

“There are guys who wait their whole life, who have been in the league forever, and they don’t even sniff a Super Bowl,” said Evans. “To get it in my first year, I’m just gonna hold it tight, and do everything in my power to make sure we win.”

And he will have all of Ben Davis rooting for him from 2079 miles away. Once a Giant, always a Giant.