Hit me with your best shot: Evan Weaver’s personality ignites Cal’s defensive rise

Karen Chow/Senior Staff

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Evan Weaver resides just on the brink. Inhabiting that narrow stretch of existence in which above-average craziness is still an asset, he walks a very thin line.

A little bit less, and he probably wouldn’t be as successful as he is today. A little bit more, and he might have fallen victim to his own intensity long ago. It’s a miraculous feat really, the ability to control one’s natural propensity for extraordinary passion, but Weaver appears to have figured it out.

And while “crazy” may not be a label that many would willingly ascribe to themselves, Weaver is the first one to use it when he’s asked about how he should be characterized.

“Man, on the field, I’m the crazy man,” Weaver said. “Off the field, though, I’m like every other person. You’ve got to have that switch.”

Weaver’s parents, Todd and Christine, realized almost immediately that they had their hands full with their youngest child. From the moment he was able to move on his own, he wanted to be outside — almost always with some sort of ball in his possession — regardless of the conditions.

“He was 18 months old and he was out in our cul-de-sac playing street hockey with a bunch of 10- to 12-year-olds, slashing them in the ankles,” Christine said. “He’s just always been intense and headstrong.”

And if Weaver was slashing the ankles of his opponents as a toddler, things were bound to get interesting as he grew and filled out his massive frame. Eventually, Weaver found a way to turn all of that pent-up energy and strength into a fuel for his success. As he got older, it became clear that he possessed a certain something that those around him didn’t.

“I realized I was good in second-grade tackle football because I was running back and I was faster than all the kids, and I was stronger than all of the kids,” Weaver said.

Soon, the propensity for taking down his older opponents turned into a bias for bickering with his parents. If things got particularly bad, Todd would make Weaver get out of the car and do pushups or squat jumps on the side of the road until he tired himself out.

Once, on the way to a water park with a car full of friends for one of Weaver’s birthdays, his parents stopped the caravan to make him do pushups in the gravel.

As he grew up, he also learned to channel that physical superiority into a protection for those who might have been smaller and less naturally gifted. The only thing that mattered to Weaver was that his teammates and friends were always giving their all, regardless of skill, and that’s still true today.

By the time high school rolled around, nobody doubted Weaver’s athletic prowess. But for the first two years, if you had asked him, he might have told you that baseball was his sport of choice — until he fell head over heels for football.

“Football was really something where I truly became in love with it, and my coaches really helped me push myself and get to where I wanted to go without really sacrificing anything,” Weaver said.

He quickly attracted the attention of scouts throughout the nation and amassed an impressive 13 offers from Pac-12 schools such as Oregon, Washington and Arizona. In the end, Cal was Weaver’s obvious choice.

“I grew up a Washington sports fan — Washington Huskies, Washington State, Seattle Seahawks — and I wanted to do something different than everyone else at my high school, and I thought there was no place better than Cal,” Weaver said.

Before he embarked upon his next chapter at Cal, though, he had one more wild goal to achieve. His push, fueled once again by the signature Evan Weaver craziness, led him to almost single-handedly carry his high school, Gonzaga Prep, to a 4A Washington State Championship.

“When he was a senior, he had those boys out the summer before — the guys on the varsity team, he told them that they were going to win state and he had them running every day,” Christine said. “He was the only senior D-1 player on that team, and they won state.”

Now, Weaver is one of the movers and shakers on a Cal defense that has been the most impressive facet of this year’s team. But little has changed when it comes to the personality he possessed throughout his boyhood years — only now, it’s more honed.

While most players will redshirt their freshman year, Weaver was immediately thrown into the highly intense world of Pac-12 football. Understandably, he floundered a bit.

“My freshman year I came here as a defensive end, and it was cool, and I was going to start my first game,” Weaver said. “And then I got in trouble on our trip in Australia, so I ended up not being able to play that game, and then I ended up scattering playing time over the season.”

After a freshman season in which he played 11 games for the Bears, Weaver had minor surgery — but when he woke up, his football universe had flipped upside down. Former Cal head coach Sonny Dykes had been fired, and Weaver would be returning to a Cal squad that was under the helm of Justin Wilcox.

For Weaver, though, that change wasn’t completely unwelcome after a less than perfect first season in which he hadn’t felt completely comfortable with the culture around him. The transition after his freshman year and the cultural revamp introduced by Wilcox seemed to have righted his ship.

And after switching positions a few more times along the way, Weaver has at last found himself a home at inside linebacker — a position highly amenable to his love of tackling.

“I’m seeing a guy that is gaining confidence — he’s really worked hard to understand the position,” said inside linebackers coach Peter Sirmon. “He’s very determined, and he’s willing to work hard to get to where he is.”

While the average American man stands at 5’9.5”, Weaver towers at 6’3”. The average American man weighs in at 191 pounds — Weaver? 245. And while a Division I inside linebacker may make a few tackles per game, Weaver averages 6.4 solo tackles per game, making him the 10th most lethal tackler in college football.

Not only is he good at tackling — but he also loves it. And that’s the scariest part of it all.

“My favorite feeling is taking the soul out of someone when you hit them,” Weaver said. “Cause when you hit them hard enough you can really feel that — they go ‘ughhh’.”

His craziness hasn’t just manifested itself in physicality, either. If you are able to hear the chatter on the field before a snap, chances are you’ll hear Weaver’s voice ring out amongst the jabber. He’s become adept at the psychological side of football — googling opponents before games so that he has some information he can use against them.

“I like to yell at people,” Weaver said. “I like to make sure that they know what’s going on in my head so that if they hit me, they know what’s going to happen. You beat them mentally, and then you beat them on the field — you get a double whammy in one, so it’s pretty good.”

Most of his teammates are well acquainted with the craziness of Evan Weaver. The majority of the fans, too, have heard lore of the chatter on the field or the love of hitting an opponent.

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What they might not see is what keeps him from going over the edge — what keeps him perfectly poised on that oh-so-magical brink. His physicality is perhaps only matched by his affability, a gregariousness and protectiveness that makes him hard to miss.

“He’s like the Pied Piper — when he comes home to Spokane, his buddies will come from everywhere just to be with him and hang out at our house over the weekend,” Christine said.

Walking on the football field after practice, people shout his name, knowing that if they catch his attention, they’ll receive an animated response. He’ll jump or wave his hands or yell back — displaying a kinetic level of buoyancy. And when he’s asked about his family, he exudes a tenderness, referring to his grandmother as his “little trophy grandma” because of her impressive fitness or proclaiming that even though his older sister is a little crazy, he has nothing but love for her.

“His personality on and off the field are the exact same,” said defensive end Tevin Paul. “He acts wild on and off the field; he just lives his life like that — in a very exuberant, wild way.”

Weaver’s made it this far, and if all goes according to plan, he’ll go even farther. But like his transition from high school, he’s got a few more things to accomplish before his time at Cal is up. First up on the docket? Not simply making it to a bowl game, but winning one.

“I’ve had a good three years,” Weaver said. “A really different, confusing and long three years. Now, I’m at linebacker, though, so it’s a carousel journey, but I’m here now. We made it.”

Those three years have featured some ups and downs. Though through it all, there’s one thing that’s always remained constant: Evan Weaver is still a self-proclaimed crazy man.

Sophie Goethals covers football. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @sophiegoethalss.