Despite missing the Saints' final 10 games of the 2009 regular season, as well as all three postseason games (including the Saints' 31-17 win over the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLIV, fullback Heath Evans was a consistently positive force and presence in the team's meeting rooms and on the sidelines during the Saints' run.
Evans, a veteran who was quick to help his teammates and always provide encouragement, said he always felt he was part of the team's success, even though he physically wasn't on the field.
"I just sat on the sidelines and yelled," the Auburn product jokingly said. He then turned serious and summed up the Saints' greatest season ever by saying, "but it's my team and my city, and I was happy just to be a part of it."
Evans, who is recovering from a knee injury that he suffered near the goal-line after making a reception in the Saints' thrilling comeback win over the Dolphins, will soon be back on the football field. The irony runs deep, as Evans was injured playing near his hometown of West Palm Beach, coupled with the fact that he played for the Dolphins in 2005 before being unceremoniously cut midseason, and last, but not least, was fully aware that Super Bowl XLIV would be played, in all places, in South Florida.
But Evans never allowed self-pity to distract him from supporting his teammates or the coaching staff and remained a valued leader behind the scenes, even when he was hobbling around on crutches following surgery to repair his knee.
Instead, Evans found the bight side and remains optimistic that he will be primed and ready to contribute to the Saints in 2010. Ever optimistic, Evans summed up the early season injury and his rehabilitation process as, "the timing couldn't be better for me. I'm so ready to play next season."
In the off-season, the 31-year old former Seahawk, Dolphin and Patriots player is once again putting his focus on his Heath Evans Foundation, which helps children and families affected by sexual abuse.
Evans' work with the foundation is featured in a new documentary series pilot, Raising Humanity, which premieres at Fort Lauderdale's Cinema Paradiso on Thursday in a benefit for charity.
"It's really about spreading awareness," Evans said of his charity work. "Kids don't always have a voice, so someone needs to stand up for them."
Advocating for sexual abuse victims is something he feels strongly about on a deeply personal level, as his wife, Beth Ann, is a survivor of child abuse.
"When we got married, I didn't know we were in for such a crazy ride," he said. "Later on, intimacy came into the picture and pent-up feelings she had came to the surface."
Evans said the couple attended therapy sessions together. "Neither if us were willing to quit. It's been nine years and we've come so far."
Out of a bad situation came something positive. Along with raising money for the cause, the couple counsels and works with victims of abuse. "Children going through it need to know there's help out there," Evans said.
Evans also stated that any success he enjoys on and off the field is a direct testament to the support his receives on a daily basis from his wife. "Beth Ann is a champ. She's the strongest person I know and my hero."
And so it was Evans, holding the proverbial flag this past weekend during his annual softball challenge in West Palm Beach, where he was surrounded by his current teammates such as Mike Bell, Pierre Thomas and David Thomas, as well as other notable players from around the league such as Randy Moss, David Clowney (Jets), Devin Hester (Bears), Abram Elam (Browns) and former teammate Rodney Harrison (now with NBC).
For more information in the Heath Evans Foundation, please click here.