116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Ten years ago, a boy named Joe Evans sat with his dad in the upper deck at a football game at Iowa State’s Jack Trice Stadium.
“It kind of hit me today,” Spence Evans said. “Iowa was playing Iowa State. I leaned over and pointed toward Iowa’s sideline and said ‘Someday, you’re going to be a Hawk.’”
What makes this a little different is they were Cyclones at the time. Well, Little Cyclones. Spence was the principal at Ames High School, and Joe would go on to be a stellar football and basketball player there.
But they also were Hawkeyes at their core.
“I loved being a Little Cyclone,” Joe Evans said. “I loved playing for Ames. But it was my dream to play for Iowa.”
That was fulfilled when Joe was offered an Iowa roster spot in 2018 as a walk-on defensive end. Which was five career quarterback sacks ago.
Spence had been a walk-on quarterback at Iowa out of Mount Pleasant in 1989. “I had a great experience,” he said. “Unfortunately, it was very obvious that I did not have the talent to be successful at a Division I level. I stayed at Iowa and got my degree.”
He coached at Johnston High, but being an educator was his calling. He was principal at Ames High from 2009 to 2019 before taking a similar job at Tipton High School, 28 miles from where he lives in Iowa City. The reason for the move was all three of the kids he and his wife, Abby, raised, were there.
Today, Joe is a second-team defensive end, a scholarship player. And he’ll be playing ball in Ames once again Saturday when the Hawkeyes face the Cyclones.
“I had really good support at Ames,” Joe said about their reaction to him becoming a Hawkeye. “Everyone was happy for me. Everyone just wanted to see me do well.”
He was a linebacker of note at Ames, but was known for his quarterback play. Thrust into that position as a sophomore because of injuries to other players, he became the school’s career leader in touchdown passes over three years.
He passed for over 5,000 yards and rushed for over 1,800.
“I would say I was a dual-threat guy,” Joe said, “but people are kind of surprised about this: I actually threw the ball a lot.”
He played basketball, too, a low-post guy at 6-foot-2. He was named his team’s MVP twice. The other two Ames players to get that honor more than once are Fred Hoiberg and Harrison Barnes. Nice company.
But this is a football player from a football family. “A little bit,” Spence said with a laugh.
Joe’s uncle, Chuck Evans, coached Iowa City Regina to a state championship in 2005. His grandfather, Bob Evans, won 202 games in 33 years that included a 40-game winning streak when he was the coach at Mount Pleasant.
“He was a phenomenal coach,” Joe said. “He had a team (in 1963) that was unscored upon.”
“Chuck and I figured out that it was something like 56 years in a row someone in our family was on the sidelines,” Spence said.
With older son Teddy and Joe’s twin sister, Sarah, working in Iowa City, when the Tipton opportunity opened Spence and Abby pulled up stakes and moved to Hawkeye country.
“To have the whole family together, that’s the heartbeat,” Spence said.
Last Dec. 7, Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz gave Joe the news that he was being put on a scholarship. He went to his parents’ house later that day and was acting coy.
Joe’s dad said “He was just ‘Oh by the way, I got a scholarship.’ I was in shock. Abby was jumping up and down.
“He’s got fantastic coaches. You couldn’t be prouder of your son to work so incredibly hard and to have coaches see that and reward it.”
Abby and Spence will be in the upper deck at Jack Trice Saturday, in seats near the ones Spence and Joe occupied at an Iowa-ISU game a decade ago.
Instead of Spence pointing at the Hawkeyes’ sideline and telling Joe “Someday, you’re going to be a Hawk,” he’ll soak in the fact his words came true.
“It’ll be emotional,” Spence said. “There’s a lot of great people there that I’ve had so many connections with, and Joe did, too. But we’ll be cheering as hard as we can for the black and gold.”
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