published Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Fourth grader overcomes chronic illness to star in football

Rashun Evans practices with his team at Notre Dame High School. He has averaged more than two touchdowns per game since he joined last year.
Rashun Evans practices with his team at Notre Dame High School. He has averaged more than two touchdowns per game since he joined last year.
Photo by Angela Lewis.
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He may be a star on the gridiron, but Rashun Evans is humble on and off the field.

"I'm not a showy person," the 9-year-old running back said. "I don't really like to showboat."

Rashun's mother, Teara King, said that reluctance to show off is one of the qualities that sets him apart from many young athletes.

"[Rashun] will make a touchdown and bring the ball back with his head down," King said. "God gets the glory.

"He has so much passion for the game. He listens to the coach. If he messes up ... he'll come back out and do it right the next time."

Rashun has averaged more than two touchdowns per game for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish youth football team since he joined last year. His abilities have earned him the nickname "The Truth" and three consecutive designations as his team's Most Valuable Player.

Rashun also played numerous positions for the Tennessee Terminators all-star baseball team in 2010. This year, he ran for the Chattanooga Jets Track Club, qualifying to attend the 2011 National Amateur Athletic Union Junior Olympics in New Orleans. He also competed with the Chattanooga Wrestling Club -- he finished third in the 75-pound midget weight class at the state finals.

CLAIM TO FAME

Rashun Evans has played youth football since he was 4, averaging more than two touchdowns per game, earning him Most Valuable Player honors three times. He also played all-star baseball, ran competitively for the Chattanooga Jets and wrestled this year for the UTC Youth Program.

ABOUT HIM

  • Age: 9.
  • School: Fourth-grader at Barger Academy.
  • Favorite subjects: Math and science.
  • Least favorite subjects: Social studies and reading.
  • Favorite movies: "Little Giants" and "Problem Child."
  • Favorite video game: "Call of Duty: Black Ops."

TALENT SHOW

Do you know a child age 13 or younger with a precocious talent in academics, athletics or the arts? The Times Free Press is searching for children to feature in "Talent Show," which appears in the Life section on Tuesdays. To nominate a child as a possible subject of a future feature article, e-mail staff writer Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfreepress.com or call him at 423-757-6205.

Rashun, 9, followed his brother Robert Evans Jr. onto the football field at age 4 with the 49ers, a team in the Chattanooga Youth Association.

Robert Evans Sr. is a former professional bodybuilder who participated in many of the same sports as his sons. Although he started playing football when he was much older than Rashun, it was clear, even at such a young age, that his youngest son was destined for the gridiron.

"He used to get his brother's equipment and go to sleep in it when he was 3 years old," Evans said. "Every time you looked for his helmet, [Rashun] was wearing it."

Earlier this year, Rashun's athletic ambitions were given a jolt when he was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, an intestinal inflammation that causes abdominal pain, fatigue and weight loss. Controlling the disease will require Rashun to take six pills a day for the rest of his life.

Some kids might lean on the condition as a crutch, but Rashun said he hasn't allowed it to affect him.

"I feel the same," he said. "Sometimes, I would pray that God heals me, and sometimes I would know that everything is OK."

John Shoemaker, who coaches the Fighting Irish, was at the hospital the day Rashun was diagnosed. Despite facing the prospect of a lifelong condition, Rashun has continued to be even-tempered.

The combination of that unflappable optimism and Rashun's innate skill make him a coach's dream, Shoemaker said.

"He's one of the most phenomenal athletes I've ever seen, especially for his age," he said. "You take a kid like that, who is almost a prodigy in football, and you expect an air of cockiness or superiority, but it's the opposite.

"He's great physically, but the humbleness that he brings to the game is what sets him apart."

Even at Rashun's young age, the people who watch him predict Rashun will have a bright future, Shoemaker added.

"Kind of a hidden joke amongst people who come and watch Rashun play is that everyone who watches him knows he'll play on Saturday [in college], and you'd be surprised if you don't see him play on Sunday [in the NFL]," he said.

And that's The Truth.

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about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, young adults, technology and people of interest. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German. He previously worked as the features editor for Sidelines at Middle Tennessee State University. Casey received the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists Award of Excellence for Reviewing/Criticism in ...

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