Marell Evans, left, signs an autograph for Siana Castillo of Monroe, is likely to see time as a linebacker.
ANN ARBOR -- Marell Evans is getting a second chance to write a better ending.
Evans has returned to Michigan, the place he abandoned after the 2008 season, feeling matured, humbled, and wiser than when he left.
"This is an opportunity of a lifetime," he said. "There's not too many kids that can transfer from a school and come back."
It hasn't been an easy journey for Evans, who worked unceremonious jobs, dealt with family problems, and battled stress attached with wondering whether he had squashed a golden opportunity by leaving Michigan.
In the end, though, it appears everything is going to work out. Evans figures to see playing time this year as a reserve middle linebacker and is on track to graduate in December with a general studies degree. If everything goes as planned, he'll obtain an additional year of athletic eligibility and be able to play next year.
Three years ago it appeared none of those things would happen. Evans moved home to Richmond, Va., after his sophomore year to support his mother financially and to watch after his troubled teenaged brother. When Evans was 6, his father died, and since then he's taken it upon himself to support his mom and brother.
Playing time contributed to his exit too. Evans started in the 2008 season opener against Utah, recording four tackles and assisting on a sack, but he played in just three more games in Rich Rodriguez's first year. Gary Chilcoat, Evans' coach at Varina High School, said Evans succumbed to a variety of stress while at Michigan.
"Marell dealt with it when he had the support system of the high school football team, but when you get into college, as much as these coaches care about the players, there's not that trust between a player and a coach for a player to be able to talk to that coach," Chilcoat said.
After leaving Michigan, Evans enrolled at Hampton University but injured his ankle before the 2009 season and never played a snap for the Pirates. Instead, he went to work in a nearby warehouse, logging 40-hour weeks on top of his class schedule. It was a process Evans called "as humbling as you can get."
"I think he's grown up," said Zac Hayden, a mentor to Evans and Varina's former defensive coordinator. "He was 19 years old when he transferred. He made an abrupt decision that he probably shouldn't have made."
When Michigan made a coaching change this winter, Evans sensed an opportunity to re-join the program under new coach Brady Hoke. But first he had hurdles to overcome, foremost meeting the university's academic requirements. Moreover, it had been more than two years since Evans played his last snap. How would he respond?
With no promise of a scholarship, Evans came to Ann Arbor in January to take classes, begin working out with his teammates, and make some money delivering newspapers in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. And, perhaps, to make a different ending.
"I think ultimately getting a Michigan degree was important to him, and I think he wanted to go back and end his career the way he started," Hayden said.
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