Evann Long has been able to show off his quickness as a defensive dynamo on the hardwood and as a slick-fielding shortstop on the ball diamond for Nixa the past three years. He's hopeful of displaying breakaway speed as a big-play wide receiver on the gridiron this fall.
The Nixa senior is making a return to football for the first time since he was in the eighth grade four years ago.
"I like all the different aspects of each sport," said Long, who could be the only Eagle this upcoming school year to start in football, basketball and baseball. "In baseball, it’s about quick bursts. In football, I love it when it’s one-on-one and I get to show off my speed."
Impressions from 7-on-7 sessions and team camp included Long being able to separate himself from cornerbacks on sideline routes and catching deep passes from quarterback Reid Potts.
However, Long's comeback hit what is hoped to be only a slight snag. An injury to the arch of his left foot kept him from competing in the Southside Team Camp last week. He wore a boot on the foot for protection and is due to report back to his doctor next week to see when he can resume workouts.
"I cut awkwardly in practice and came out (the next day) and made it worse," Long said. "I had to leave early and get X-rays. The pain started out only when I put pressure on it. But then every time I was cutting on it, it would give out on me and I couldn’t do anything full speed."
Injury aside, Long couldn't be happier about giving football another try.
"I’n having a lot of fun," he said. "After the eighth grade, I decided to sit out so I wouldn’t get hurt for other sports. Now, I wish I would have played. Football is a lot different now than junior high. There's a lot more technique involved and with our new play system, there’s a lot of new plays to learn.
"Running routes and catching the ball are always fun," he added. "(Touchdown catches) are awesome, a great feeling. Hopefully, there will be a lot to come this year."
Credit Potts for recruiting Long to football.
"Reid kind of convinced me to play," Long said. "We’ve always been good buddies. After he’s been throwing to me now, he knows my routes and puts the ball where it needs to be for me to catch it. He's a really good quarterback."
Long has quickly become one of Potts' favorite targets. Potts' eyes light up when he sees the opposing defense in man coverage and Long being defended one-on-one.
"I try to hide it to the best of my abilities. But that is definitely one of my favorite things to see," Potts said. "He’s an awesome receiver. He knows where the ball is going to be and he gets there."
Long's long-term plan is to play baseball at the college level. He enjoyed a standout junior season in the spring by hitting .390 with 20 RBIs and earned All-COC First-Team honors. He followed up by putting up exceptional numbers in travel ball this summer.
"I had a good summer," he said. "Hopefully, that will continue next year."
Long has surprised himself by discovering a power stroke. He had two home runs during school ball and two more during travel ball.
"I haven’t been a power hitter. I’d always been a contact hitter from being kind of small," he said. "(Nixa coaches Jason Daugherty and Zach Leonard) helped me a lot by critiquing my swing. They made everything new in my swing and I’ve been hitting well ever since."