N.C. State football was always a presence in Daniel Evans' life.
For so long, Evans simply wanted to play for the Wolfpack, a childhood dream sewn on afternoons spent hauling a parabolic microphone for his father and dodging oncoming players on the Carter-Finley Stadium sideline.
Such tales don't always end well. Yet, Evans has produced a storybook script since taking over as the starting quarterback a month ago, and in the process resuscitated N.C. State's season.
"It was a dream of mine, to play for N.C. State," said Evans, whose Wolfpack (3-3, 2-1 ACC) visit Maryland (4-2, 1-1) on Saturday. "Now, I'm just living out the dream. It's a real blessing."
There's a difference, though, between experiencing a reverie and extending one. The sophomore wasted no time ensuring he would remain the Wolfpack's long-term starter, engineering a last-minute drive against Boston College on Sept. 23 and capping it with a game-winning 34-yard touchdown with eight seconds left.
Just like that, the complexion of a season that appeared doomed after losses to Akron and Southern Mississippi changed.
"Just being able to come from behind like we did on national TV and win like we did, not just for me, but for everybody, we really enjoyed it," Evans said. "It was an awesome experience. Hopefully we can look back and say that drive made our season and turned it around."
Evans pulled off another comeback in his next game, guiding two second-half touchdown drives as N.C. State erased a 10-point deficit and stunned Florida State. And while the Wolfpack lost last weekend to Wake Forest, Evans continued to show improvement.
"He has given us a spark," coach Chuck Amato said. "Something's been there since the move has been made. The youngster's made an awful lot of plays, and he's getting better."
It almost didn't happen. Evans wasn't highly recruited out of Raleigh's Broughton High School, with Tulsa, Wake Forest and N.C. State showing the most interest. When signing day arrived in 2004, it was clear Evans wouldn't receive a scholarship unless the Wolfpack lost its star quarterback recruit.
That was Brent Schaeffer, whom Amato was certain would come to Raleigh. Instead, Schaeffer signed with Tennessee (he has since transferred to Ole Miss), providing Evans a chance to play for the Wolfpack rather than forcing him to look at other options.
"I was sitting in my math class my senior year in high school and was kind of thinking about things," Evans said. "My dad came to class and said 'Can I get Daniel' He said 'Brent Schaeffer decided to go to Tennessee and you got a scholarship. I have the signing papers for you.' I just signed it right there in the hall. It was a pretty neat experience."
Perhaps as neat as Johnny Evans' chance to call his son's games. Evans was an All-America punter and two-year starter at N.C. State in the 1970s, and has been part of the school's broadcast team for 22 years.
Still, all that experience didn't entirely prepare him for seeing Daniel get pressured in a college game. All football parents endure it to some degree, but not many are part of a live broadcast.
"As a professional, you have to have some sense of decorum outwardly," Johnny Evans said. "I wasn't yelling or screaming or slamming my fist on the mike. There's this sort of dichotomy of a dad and grunting and groaning inwardly with every move while knowing outwardly to make sure I was being professional over the air. It's getting a little easier each game."
Daniel Evans is getting used to his new role, too. He used to be a 6-foot-2, 191-pounder recognized by few on campus. And while he appreciates the attention, he has retained his sense of humor since his promotion.
"I'm more of a private guy. I could do without the hype and the recognition," Evans said. "Before, people didn't know I played football. I'm not real big and I'm not real strong, so I kind of blended in. I'm not one of the big linemen that people assume must be a football player. They probably think I'm a kicker."
Few will make that mistake again. Evans has thrown for 569 yards and four touchdowns in his three starts while displaying the consistency the Wolfpack have lacked at quarterback since Philip Rivers departed after the 2003 season.
He already has restored hope to a season that teetered on a precipice last month. Now, he's poised to remain a presence in N.C. State's program for some time.
"I have very high expectations, probably the highest of anybody because I've seen what he can do," Johnny Evans said. "In some ways, he has just scratched the surface. I don't think they've seen how good he can be."