Wisconsin wide receiver pleads innocent

M By Matt Scherling

mADISON, Wis. (U-WIRE) – University of Wisconsin star wide receiver Lee Evans entered an innocent plea Tuesday for a misdemeanor charge of marijuana possession.

Evans’ attorney entered the innocent plea for Evans, who did not travel to Iowa County, Iowa, to attend the proceeding.

Evans, a 21-year-old senior at the University of Wisconsin, was traveling with several others when he was picked up by Ridgeway, Iowa, police, who claimed Evans was speeding. In Evans’ car officers found a bag of marijuana and two blunts; cigars emptied of tobacco and filled with marijuana, according to a police report.

Evans, who was behind the wheel, told police the marijuana was his, the report said.

Evans’ next hearing is set for early February.

Evans set the UW single-season and career receiving records in 2001, hauling in 75 catches for 1,545 yards and becoming Wisconsin’s all-time leading receiver, with 2,255 career yards. He was a Biletnikoff Award finalist, and expectations rose for his senior year as rumors swirled regarding his potential to win the Heisman Trophy as football’s most outstanding performer.

Evans returned so he could help the Badgers rebound from a losing season and to finish his degree in consumer science.

Playing in the annual Badger spring game on the very day of the NFL draft Evans decided to forego, the star wide receiver fell awkwardly after attempting to catch a pass and tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during a spring scrimmage game. Evans declined to wear a green jersey that would have prevented other players from tackling him during the scrimmage.

“I won’t rush it if I feel I can be ready [earlier],” Evans said in July. “But if I’m not, then I’ll wait. My plan is to be back by the Big Ten season.”

After sitting out the entire 2002 season due to the injury, Evans recently announced he would again undergo surgery on the same knee as a result of continued swelling.

Evans’ next decision may be whether he will declare for the NFL draft or return to Wisconsin for his final remaining year of NCAA eligibility. Draft experts projected Evans to be the third or fourth receiver taken had he not decided to return to school. Since his devastating knee injury prevented him from playing this year and is now coupled with a pending drug charge, Evans draft value is wavering.

Badger head coach Barry Alvarez said in October that Evans displayed leadership to the young receiving corps during his rehabilitation.

“He’s done a tremendous job in helping develop those young receivers and being there all of the time for them, in the game and during practice,” Alvarez said. “He will continue to work with them. He’s really an important part of our football team as a leader as well as helping those guys to come along. He has been awesome.”