Texas A&M receiver Mike Evans went from relative unknown to bonafide star in college football circles and now is preparing for the NFL draft.
With the sophomore departing early, the Aggies hit the recruiting trail to find someone who they hope could be the next Evans, ESPN 300 receiver Frank Iheanacho.
The comparisons have been drawn for several reasons. The Houston Westside High School product, like Evans, was a varsity basketball player first before deciding to join the varsity football team as a senior and both have impressive size (6-foot-6, 220 pounds) and leaping ability.
We caught up with the U.S. Army All-American to talk about the comparisons and much more.
Q: You recently attended one of Texas A&M's spring football practices and spent some time with coach Kevin Sumlin. How did that go?
Iheanacho: "It was good. I got to see how practice works, chat it up with all the players and get to learn about the offense. It got me more anxious to get there. [Sumlin and I] were just chatting it up. He told me he can't wait until I get down there to play and practice for them."
Q: How big a factor was Sumlin in your decision to sign with Texas A&M?
Iheanacho: "He's the type of coach that you can build a relationship with pretty easily. He's cool to talk to. He understands the game and understands where you're coming from so I felt like the connection is easy to make. The vibe that I got from him was good. He's a coach I want to play for."
Q: What was it like for you to go from virtually unknown in football circles to one of the top 100 recruits in the country and receive the accolades and attention that you did?
Iheanacho: "It was dream come true for me, honestly. I grew up always wanting to be considered one of the best. That's what I worked for. When the moment actually came, it was crazy. I'm still awestruck about everything that happened."
Q: Was it ever overwhelming?
Iheanacho: "Yeah it was definitely overwhelming. You ask yourself a lot of questions. 'How did this happen?' In my situation, coming on so late, 'Do you deserve to have this role?' You just learn to accept it and appreciate everything that you're given."
Q: I know many who followed your recruitment know your backstory, but for those who don't, summarize your journey to the gridiron
Iheanacho: "I grew up as a little kid playing basketball and started playing organized in the eighth grade. I was in the AAU circuit and I worked hard every day trying to get my school paid for. That was the goal. I played football in my freshman and sophomore year but I never really took it seriously. It wasn't something I felt was in my future. I decided I was going to go straight to basketball and focus on that. My friends brought me back [to football] my senior year and it just took off from there."
Q: Many people make the comparison between you and Mike Evans because of your paths. How do you react to that?
Iheanacho: "It's a compliment. He's going to be a great player in my eyes. I'm flattered to have that comparison. At the end of the day, I want people to remember my name and that's what I'm striving for. I want to be a player people look up to and I want to be considered the best."
Q: Did you get to know Mike throughout your recruitment?
Iheanacho: "Yeah. He's a cool dude. He accepted me from the jump. I actually just talked to him [Thursday]. He had great things to say about the program and how things are going to go."
Q: How helpful is it to have that relationship with someone who has gone down the path you're trying to travel?
Iheanacho: "It gives me a positive vibe about what I'm doing in life. I listen to him and the No. 1 think he told me is to listen to [receivers] coach [David] Beaty and he'll steer me in the right direction. That's what I plan to do."
Q: Most people call you by your nickname, "Nacho." How often do folks mispronounce your actual last name?
Iheanacho: (Laughs) "Hundreds of times. But 'Nacho' has been with me since forever."
Q: For those who don't know, how do you say your last name?
Q: What have you been doing during the offseason as you prepare for your arrival in Aggieland this summer?
Iheanacho: "I've just been getting ready and prepared for the next season. Just working hard and trying to get better at my craft."
Q: Is playing early a goal that you've set?
Iheanacho: "I set that as a goal. When I come through, I'm going to work hard to achieve that goal."