Mike Evans was surprised, just like everyone else in the football world, when Tom Brady unretired earlier this year. The quarterback barely even gave his Tampa Bay Buccaneers teammate a heads up in a text conversation earlier in the day.
"He texted me and he sent me an article where his ball sold for over 500 grand, the last touchdown that I threw in the stands against the Rams," Evans said recently in an interview with Ari Alexander of KPRC in Houston. "He's like, 'That's a lot of tuition money.' I just laughed, and then I said, 'To my defense I didn't know that you were going to retire.' He sent back a laughing emoji, saying, 'There's more touchdowns in our future.' So I'm just thinking he's trolling me. I don't know what he's talking about. So a few hours later, it's announced that he's coming back, and I was happy.
"I didn't think he was really coming back. I thought he was just playing around."
Instead, Brady and Evans will be playing around in Tampa Bay for at least one more season.
After a second straight postseason appearance, the Bucs are returning most of their offense, including Brady, Evans, Chris Godwin (rehabbing from torn ACL), Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate, and have added former Falcons standout Russell Gage to the receiving corps. However, Tampa Bay will be without the likes of Rob Gronkowski (trying out a second retirement), O.J. Howard, Ronald Jones and starting offensive linemen Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet for the first time in the Brady era.
Regardless of who's on the field in Tampa Bay, expect the status quo from the remarkably reliable Evans. The former first-round receiver has recorded at least 1,000 yards in each of his eight seasons in the NFL. Evans has been even better with Brady under center, hauling in 27 touchdowns over the past two years; his 14 TDs in 2021 were a career high. Over the course of his career, Evans has racked up 606 receptions, 9,301 yards and 75 scores, all by the age of 28.
Despite all this, Evans remains perennially underrated. He's never been named a first-team All-Pro and has reached the Pro Bowl just four times. But the Super Bowl champion wide receiver is interested in higher honors.
Asked by Alexander if he has considered his potential candidacy for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Evans was unabashed.
"Yeah, of course," the wideout said. "I think about it, but obviously I try to stay in the moment as much as possible. But that's what I'm working for, why not? I'm trying to be the best in the game right now, and ultimately one of the best to ever play."
Another prolific year catching double-digit TDs from his cryptic quarterback and Evans will surely have the résumé for a bust in Canton.