Crystal Lake, IL – When famous duos come to mind most people immediately think of Han and Chewbacca, Batman and Robin, Mario and Luigi, Montana and Rice, or Brady and Belichick. For Hawkeye fans, there’s a duo from Illinois who may need to be added to that list shortly. Today that duo will make it official by signing to play football for the University of Iowa.
Samson Evans and Jeff Jenkins probably aren’t household names to most Iowans at this time. The duo from Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, IL just wrapped up back to back 6A state championships on the way to cementing their legacies in Illinois high school football history. We had a chance to catch up with Samson and Jeff for a few questions:
HH (to Samson): You were recently named the Northwest Herald High School Football Player of the Year for the third consecutive year. That makes you the first three time winner in Illinois HS FB history. What will you miss the most about playing high school football?
SE: The biggest thing i will miss most about high school football, besides the great coaches we had, is the bond I got to make with some of these guys. You go through hell and back with these guys all season fighting for one goal, it’s something really special you can’t find in any other sport. You get to play the sport you love with your best friends there’s nothing else like that . . . That’s what I’ll miss the most.
HH (to Samson): Your ability to play multiple positions on the football field and impact the game both offensively and on special teams was crucial to ensuring back to back state championship. Iowa has recruited you to play WR but we’re wondering if you could play one other position and it can’t be QB, which would you choose?
SE: If I had to play a different position and it couldn’t be on offense, I feel safety would be a good position for me. I’m a physical kid and used to be one of the hardest hitters on my team. I played safety up until I started high school.
HH (to Samson): Iowa fans are some of the proudest fans in the entire country. The one gripe we have is that we never seem to have a downfield threat. Someone with the experience you bring understands how important that is to keep a defense from loading the box. In your opinion, what are some ways Iowa can improve with the long ball?
SE: I think by just having a deep threat and play maker options on the outside it will help to loosen up the game. It makes the defense have to respect both aspects and not just rely on stopping one. I don’t know exactly how, but I believe just having the threats out there will ultimately help not only the passing game but also the running game.
HH (to Samson): There’s little doubt you’ve left a legacy at Praire Ridge. You’ve likely developed some strong friends and memories that will last a lifetime. What are you most proud of?
SE: What I’m most proud of is this senior class we had this year. We went through a lot to get to where we wanted to be. We had a bullseye on our backs all year and we just embraced it every week. Never letting it get to our heads and just taking each game week by week and never looking ahead. We faced a lot of injuries on offense and I felt like we held it together very well. Well enough that people outside looking in may not be able to have known that we had multiple injuries on the offense. But my most memorable drive we had as an offense was are last and final drive together. We knew it was going to be our last and we went out with a bang and drove 40 yards in the final minutes of our state football game. I think that just showed how all of our hard work we put in during the off season paid off. We had the confidence in ourselves that we could do it and that’s what we did. I’ll always remember that emotional final drive with my brothers.
HH (to Jeff): You guys joined Marian Central as only the 2nd team ever to win back to back state championships from Mchenry County. The second one is always more difficult because of the target on your backs. In your opinion, what made this second state championship so memorable?
JJ: The second one was definitely much harder to get! Everyone kind of had us circled on the schedule and came out and wanted to beat us. This championship is so memorable because of how hard we had to work to get it. Everyone did what they needed to and we got to be around a group of kids that we knew were going all out all the time.
HH (to Jeff): Hawkeye fans may not know this quite yet but your ability to play nearly every single snap the last four years was impressive. I’m wondering what was your key to staying so healthy and being able to play through minor injuries.
JJ: Over the years I had to deal with some small injuries each year. The last few weeks it always seemed like something would pop up. But being mentally tough and just playing through those injuries was something I pride myself on. It’s a long season and sometimes you just gotta play through it.
HH (to Jeff): You finish your high school career having won 28 straight games. Your Prairie Ridge coaching staff did a great job keeping your team focused week in and week out. Take us through things mentally for you leading up to a big game.
JJ: I think the thing for us was the type of guys we had in the locker room. Like you said, we won 28 games in a row but that didn’t keep us from staying hungry and working hard each and every day. We still went out to practice every day and wanted to get better. I think that’s why we had such a special group of guys.
HH (to Jeff): Let’s do a Hawkeye comparison for all of the Hawkeye Heaven followers. What current/ or former Iowa offensive linemen do you think your skills up front most resemble?
JJ: When I look at who I want my game to follow I kinda look at James Daniels. I’ve watched a lot of film the last few months on him. I’m not anywhere close to James, but that’s who I try and match my game with.
Hawkeye Heaven would like to say thank you to both Jeff and Sam. This duo from Illinois is set to make some big waves in Iowa City in the years to come. Be sure to give both Jeff and Samson a follow on Twitter @samson22evans @Jeffjenkins77