The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa’s Tory Taylor and Joe Evans have different NFL Draft hype, but same mindset

While Taylor could potentially be a mid-round draft pick as a punter, Evans never received an invite to the NFL Combine.
Ayrton Breckenridge
Iowa defensive lineman Noah Shannon celebrates after tackling Nebraska running back Anthony Grant for a loss during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. The Huskers defeated the Hawkeyes, 24-17.

On perhaps one of the most important days in his football career, Iowa’s Joe Evans would rather be playing for his team. Sitting in the cold tub with teammate Rusty Feth the morning of Iowa’s Pro Day, Evans said he’d rather be back at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, battling in the trenches against Michigan in the 2023 Big Ten title game.

“To be honest, it’s really hard for me because I’m such a team-first guy,” Evans said following his Pro Day on March 18. “Everything is about the team, and it’s always been that way for me. I let my agent do that part of putting myself out there.”

Evans, alongside teammate Tory Taylor, are two of several Hawkeyes looking to continue their playing careers from Saturdays to Sundays by taking their talents to the NFL. Whether it involves working out with former pros in California or staying home to brave the Iowa cold, the duo embarked on different pre-draft processes.

Through their respective journeys, Taylor received attention for possibly being one of the highest-drafted punters in recent memory, while Evans wasn’t even invited to the NFL Combine and experimented with a new position. Yet regardless of the difference in hype, each embrace only what they can control and lets the pieces fall where they may.

Taylor is older at 26 years old, but also has less total of football experience, having picked up the game playing Australian football rules through high school. His first punt attempt in an American football game was in front of an empty Ross-Ade Stadium back in September 2020. That boot, delivered at the Hawkeyes’ 12-yard-line, soared for 50 yards, and flipped the field for Iowa.

Four years, 294 punts, and one consensus All-American nod later, Taylor found himself in Indianapolis at the NFL combine, where he practiced punts but didn’t partake in other workouts. Looking back on his path, Taylor noted that hard work only gets so far when striving to get to the next level.

“It’s just really important to take calculated risks,” he said. “I’m really a big believer in that you have to push yourself and get yourself out of your comfort zone … People always talk about, ‘As young as you work hard and blah, blah, blah,’ but everyone’s working hard.”

Over the offseason, Taylor put himself in an unfamiliar situation weather-wise, abandoning the frigid Iowa winters for the warm California sunshine. Out west, Taylor reunited with his coach from Australia, Nathan Chapman, as well as NFL punters such as A.J. Cole of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jack Fox of the Detroit Lions, and Bryce Baringer of the New England Patriots.

Taylor said he valued his time among the pros, as he got to gauge their demeanor during all parts of their routine, from workouts in the gym to warming up on the field.

In the leadup to the Hawkeyes’ title championship matchup against the Wolverines, Taylor earned the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter, becoming the first in the program’s history to do so. Iowa has had its share of pro punters, such as the late Reggie Roby as a sixth-round selection by the Miami Dolphins in 1986, but Taylor has the chance to climb up draft boards.

According to the NFL Mock Draft Database, some see the 6-foot-4 punter as a fifth-round grab by the Denver Broncos. Since 2010, only 12 punters have been taken within the first five rounds, but making history as a high draft pick or slotting in as a typical late-round punter isn’t at the top of Taylor’s mind.

“These last few months have been some of the most fun months of my life, I’ve absolutely loved it,” he said. “Yeah, it’s a little bit stressful, but at the end of the day, it is what it is. I’m not worried about the stuff I can’t control, the external stuff, it’s a waste of time.”

The night before his Pro Day, Evans was back home in Ames, Iowa, having dinner with his parents. Before he left for Iowa City, his father gave him one final piece of advice.

“Just remember who you are and always have that chip on your shoulder,” Evans said. “That’s the player I’ve always been.”

Back when he was a high school quarterback, Evans didn’t attract much hype, missing out on the all-state team his senior year before joining Iowa as a walk-on at linebacker. Evans redshirted his first season and said he struggled to find much of a friend group during his first couple months on campus, stuck in the cycle of school and practice.

He said if he didn’t get an invitation to start practicing with the team in the summer of 2019, then he most likely would’ve transferred to Ohio Western. After making the move to defensive end in the spring of that year, Evans’ play time steadily improved over the next five seasons as he finished his Iowa career ranked fourth in sacks with 28, more than half of which came in his final two campaigns.

Even though the 6-foot-2, 251 pounder is a bit undersized for an NFL defensive line, Evans said he’s received some interest from teams about playing edge rusher.

“I’m just hoping I get an opportunity,” Evans said.

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About the Contributors
Matt McGowan
Matt McGowan, Pregame Editor
he/him/his Matt McGowan is The Daily Iowan's Pregame Editor. He is a sophomore double majoring in journalism and mass communications and American studies with a minor in sport studies.  This is his second year with the DI
Ayrton Breckenridge
Ayrton Breckenridge, Managing Visuals Editor
Ayrton Breckenridge is the Managing Visuals Editor at The Daily Iowan. He is a senior at the University of Iowa majoring in journalism and cinema. This is his fourth year working for the DI.