LARAMIE — Nico Evans isn’t the norm in today’s college football culture.
In a time where transferring is the quick fix for a lack of playing time for most players having to wait their turn, Evans stuck it out at Wyoming when it would’ve been easy to follow the trend. The senior running back had just 108 rushing yards for his career entering his fifth and final season with the Cowboys.
His patience has been rewarded with a milestone that seemed nearly unfathomable when it started.
Evans eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards for the season with 187 yards in Wyoming’s 24-9 win over San Jose State on Saturday, becoming just the 10th player in program history to reach the mark. He’s the first to do it since the Cowboys’ all-time leading rusher, Brian Hill, ran for a school-record 1,860 yards in 2016 for his second straight 1,000-yard season.
“It showed that all my hard work is finally paying off,” said Evans, who’s averaging 6.4 yards per carry. “Just a lot of people in my corner like my mom and dad. To see all my hard work coming together, it’s a great feeling.”
Needing just 21 yards to reach the mark going into Saturday’s game, Evans topped it early with 36 yards on his first nine carries. He then put himself well on his way to his sixth 100-yard game of the season early in the second quarter with the kind of explosive run that’s become standard for the 5-foot-9, 211-pounder.
Evans took the handoff and started to his right, cut back to his left and exploded through the line 58 yards for his seventh touchdown of the season. It was the fourth touchdown run of at least 53 yards for Evans, who’s averaging a whopping 46 yards per scoring run.
“I don’t really like singles or doubles. I go for the home run,” Evans said with a smile. “Nah, I don’t know. When I see daylight, I just try to hit it as fast as I can. I just have that mentality that I don’t want to get caught. I don’t really take it easy until I hit that end zone.”
Evans has put together three straight games of at least 133 yards after being held to a season-low 58 at Fresno State and is averaging 145.8 per game. Only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor (151.4) is running for more in the Football Bowl Subdivision on a per-game basis.
Evans is fourth nationally with 1,166 total rushing yards. He trails Taylor by 197 yards for the national lead with at least two more games to play.
Not bad for a guy who missed two games in the season’s first month with bruised ribs after waiting nearly half a decade for his chance.
“Every year, you always have bright surprises, and he’s certainly been one,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said. “He’s waited his turn, and that’s the counterculture with what goes on in college football now. Most guys, it’s an instantaneous me now and what’s in it for me?
“Nico’s been an ultimate team player. He was a selected captain. And then for him to have the type of season he’s had, he deserves some of those accolades he’s getting. I know he’s starting to receive some national attention.”
Now the objective is to keep his final season going as long as possible. Wyoming will host Air Force on Nov. 17 before ending the regular season the following week at New Mexico and needs to win both to become bowl eligible.
Evans said that’s been the primary focus ever since a four-game losing streak earlier this season made every week a must-win situation for the Cowboys. But he won’t soon forget the milestone he hit along the way.
“It’s pretty cool,” Evans said. “I think it’s an honor to be able to do that as a Cowboy. I’m happy I’m able to do that not only for this team but for the state.”