Success in the details: Cal linebacker Evan Tattersall’s dedication to the sport

photo of football player Evan Tattersall
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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The biggest victories in life aren’t obvious. They don’t show off, they’re not in your face and they don’t ask for validation. What makes a true win is in the little details that got you there.

As a 240-pound, 6’2” inside linebacker for Cal, Evan Tattersall has taken an unconventional route to success. While some have referred to him as the next Evan Weaver, Tattersall would rather think of himself in more humble terms as the kind of person who “can get along with anyone.”

Tattersall doesn’t brag. But he is unwavering in his determination to be the best player he can be. Winning games isn’t everything for a senior who’s focused on academics and making the most of his remaining two years of eligibility, but it’s certainly important, and Tattersall is working his hardest to make a lasting mark as a veteran on the team.

The age-old adage that “what matters most is the journey along the way” is very applicable in Tattersall’s case. His path to becoming a starter at the No. 1 university in the nation began decades ago, before he was even born, in a little town called Eugene, Oregon.

The Tattersall family’s football story starts in 1990, when Tammy and Jon Tattersall first met as students at the University of Oregon. Tammy was a local, born and raised in Eugene, while Jon had moved to the area from Los Angeles to play football.

Jon was an offensive guard for the Ducks, and as his senior year season came to a close, he was starting to think more seriously about his future. He and Tammy had been friends for a few years already, but it wasn’t until he retired from his football career that they started to date.

“We had a lot of mutual friends,” Tammy said. “We did know each other before, but for some reason, there was a connection after the season, maybe because he had more time. Those things work out the way they do.”

Because Jon’s season was over when they began their romantic relationship, Tammy hadn’t yet experienced the day-to-day life of a Division I football player. It wouldn’t be until much later on in their story that Tammy would become immersed in the world of college athletics.

Fast forward a few decades and three children later, and the Tattersalls now live in Granite Bay, California. They spend their free time supporting the distinguished athletic careers of one son and two daughters. The Tattersall family makes for an impressive roster: Evan, the oldest, Paige, a junior on the Pepperdine swim team, and Jane, a sophomore in high school who plays lacrosse. Each one of their children is quite accomplished in their respective sports, none of which overlap.

“Our family dynamic is built around athletics,” Tammy said. “We’re super active, we love all sports and we’ve centered ourselves around sports. That’s how we raised the kids because that’s what we grew up with as well.”

If Tammy didn’t know what it was like to be around college athletes back in the ’90s, she certainly does now. She and Jon’s weekends are filled with countrywide travels to be at their kids’ home and away games.

“Since Evan started playing football, I don’t think we have ever missed one of us being at a high school or college football game,” Tammy said.

Luckily for the Tattersalls, not missing a game means having the ability to be there for their son when things go south, which is one way to describe the event that took place Nov. 16, 2019.

Cal and USC were tied 10-10 in the second quarter, with USC’s drive starting five minutes and 45 seconds in. The highly anticipated matchup of the season was hosted at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, and Trojan fans outnumbered Bears fans 500 to 1.

In an unfortunate and inexplicable turn of events, USC linebacker Juliano Falaniko appeared to lower his helmet and collide with Tattersall, whose head took the brunt of the impact. Before the play was even over, trainers rushed onto the field to assist the motionless Bear.

After several minutes of a standstill and nervous energy running throughout the stadium, Tattersall was taken off the field in a stretcher and transported to a local hospital. Fortunately, he was responsive and had suffered only a concussion. But the freak accident could have ended Tattersall’s career that day — it was only sheer luck that allowed him to escape relatively unscathed.

“That was a very tough moment for us,” his mother said. “It’s your own kid. Everybody’s concerned, and they’re overly cautious in those situations, so it always looks 100% worse from the TV and stands. It’s a really hard thing to watch, but you also over the years prepare yourself for those possibilities because it can happen at any time.”

As usual, Tattersall’s parents were in the stands that day, and their ability to ride in the ambulance with their son on his way to the hospital is one they’ll never take for granted.

Tattersall views that day as a blip on his timeline — a moment when something that could have gone very wrong did not. As a linebacker, he is unafraid of injuries and trusts the sport he’s played since he was in fourth grade.

“I’ve dealt with injuries every season since I can remember, some not as serious as others, some more serious,” Tattersall said. “I’m definitely not scared of it. It happens, and you just kind of deal with the cards that you’re given.”

Tattersall’s philosophy of rolling with the punches — or in his case, tackles — has served him well throughout the entirety of his time as a Bear. He manages the heavy workload of an economics major while attending daily football practices. His approach to life is one of the reasons he does well on and off the field, and with strong family support behind him, his trajectory continues to trend upward.

Without the small things that have built Tattersall’s career, such as his family’s commitment to attending every one of his games and his motivation to achieve academically, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

Each unique part of Tattersall’s history has coalesced to maintain his passion for football and desire to succeed. His parents’ saga at the University of Oregon and his subsequent offer to play for the Ducks brought a family that’s centered around athletics full circle, even though Tattersall eventually decided Cal was a better fit.

His parents’ endless support is one of the many reasons Tattersall is a starter at a top program not too far away from his home in Granite Bay. Knowing that home is only a few hours’ drive away can be comforting, especially when your sport happens to involve charging headfirst at other Division I linebackers.

“Just having (your parents) at the game makes you want to play better,” Tattersall said.

The little things may be small. But proven by Tattersall’s long and successful career, they do matter.

Mia Horne is the sports editor. Contact her at [email protected].