A picture of Kinnick Stadium popped up on Samson Evans’ phone. One sentence was written below.
“Wouldn’t you like to play in front of 70,000 Iowa fans?”
The text was part of a seemingly endless stream of attempts by his Prairie Ridge High School (Ill.) teammate and 2018 Iowa commit, Jeff Jenkins, designed to convince Evans to play for the Hawkeyes.
“It was something every single day with him,” Evans said. “It was some weird thing he would say to get me to go.”
Jenkins doesn’t need to bother with any pitches this week. His pursuit of his teammate — his best friend — is over. On Sunday, 3-star prospect Evans verbally committed to play wide receiver at Iowa.
“Jeff is probably Iowa’s best recruiter for Samson,” Prairie Ridge football coach Chris Schremp said.
— Samson Evans (@Samson22Evans) May 21, 2017
Samson Evans’ top recruiter
Jenkins wanted what was best for Evans. And, based on his constant pitch for the Hawkeyes, he must have thought that was Iowa. A text. Or a comment. Or a post on social media. Every day.
The two are in the same first- and fifth-period classes. They eat lunch together five days a week, and football is a constant conversation. Jenkins, a 3-star offensive lineman, made sure the Hawkeyes were, too, after he committed to the Hawkeyes in January.
“I don’t want to pressure him in anything,” Jenkins said, “but him knowing what Iowa has to offer and what they are all about — they recruit hard-working guys who compete — and that’s something I know he likes about Iowa.”
His script stuck with Iowa’s strongest selling points. He tried not to play the emotion card too much, despite their shared history.
The two are close, living in the same neighborhood. They played youth football together in the third and eighth grades. They won the Illinois 6A high school title in 2016 as Evans led the way as an option quarterback. They wanted to play college football together.
“It’s been our dream since we were little kids,” Jenkins said.
— Jeff Jenkins (@Jeffjenkins77) May 21, 2017
Evans didn’t want sentimentality to drive his decision.
“He handles it well,” Schremp said. “He laughs it off. They joke around about it quite a bit. They have a good relationship. Samson knows, and I’ve tried to talk to him quite a bit, it has to be the best fit for him.”
So he weighed the pros and cons. Northern Illinois recruited him to play quarterback. Most of his 11 other offers involved playing wide receiver or defensive back. In the end, Iowa’s staff and the program’s culture made the difference. The chance to play alongside Jenkins was a bonus.
“I was basically thinking about what was best for my future,” Evans said. “I felt Iowa and everything they are about would benefit me down the road. I just felt that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
Evans told Jenkins on Friday. The lineman tried playing it cool, saying he knew Evans would commit all along.
But Evans read through his friend’s casual response. All the text messages showed a teenager eager to play with his best buddy.
“He is really happy now, I’m sure,” Evans said.