BOULDER, Colo. — If Evan Worthington’s play as a defensive back for Colorado reminds anyone of Evan White, there’s an easy explanation.
New name. Same game.
He arrived in Boulder three years ago as Evan White, an athletic player thrust into action for the Buffaloes out of necessity. Suspended last season for violating team rules, he took a semester off from school, became a security guard, had a son , watched Colorado’s rise to prominence from the Folsom Field bleachers and returned this spring as Evan Worthington, his mom’s maiden name.
By any name, he’s making the most of a second chance.
“There were times when I was thinking, ‘What happens if I end up not getting back on the team?'” said Worthington , whose Buffaloes (3-2, 0-2 Pac-12) host Arizona (2-2, 0-1) on Saturday night. “That’s why I’ll never take football for granted. I can’t. Not anymore.”
Worthington was suspended from the Buffaloes following the 2015 season because he “didn’t follow team rules,” he said.
It was a difficult time. A soul-searching time.
While his teammates went to practice, he went to work as a security guard. He would serve as a watchman at a department store and an office building. One of his assignments even took him right across the street from the hotel where the team stayed on nights before home games.
“It wasn’t necessarily hard work, just boring,” said Worthington, who played in 12 games during his freshman year in 2014 and 11 as a sophomore in ’15. “Just sitting there all day, those long shifts.”
After his shift ended, his next stop would typically be Six Zero Strength and Fitness, a gym owned by former Colorado defensive lineman Matthew McChesney . Worthington added roughly 15 pounds of muscle to his 6-foot-2 frame. The workout sessions became his outlet and a way to keep on track for a return to the football field.
Then, there was this: On Sept. 24, 2016, his son, Kannon , was born.
“Definitely had to (turn things around), because he’s going to be looking up to me one day,” Worthington said. “He’s going to follow what I do and I have to set an example.”
Game days, though, were difficult. He couldn’t stay away.
So he would get a ticket from a friend and sit in the stands for home games as the Buffaloes went on to capture the Pac-12 South title. The defense played an integral part in the turnaround and featured three defensive backs that are now playing on the next level — cornerback Chidobe Awuzie (Dallas), strong safety Tedric Thompson (Seattle) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (San Francisco). He could’ve been out there making stops with them.
“It was so exciting to watch what they were doing, but it was definitely hard, too,” said Worthington, who’s a junior this season. “It’s difficult to describe how I was feeling during that time.”
One overriding sentiment: He couldn’t wait to suit up.
Worthington never really considered going elsewhere despite some junior college offers. He was born in Denver and became one of the top high school players in the state down the road at Cherokee Trail. He started his career at Colorado and wanted to finish it there.
He enrolled in classes in January toward his degree in sociology and returned for spring practice. He also changed his name back to Worthington in March. He switched from Worthington to White after his mother was married. When she divorced, he went back, he said.
From White to Worthington, Buffaloes coach Mike MacIntyre has noticed his evolution as a player and a person.
“The light bulb came on,” MacIntyre said. “His athletic ability is still the same, but now he’s mature. He understands it, and doesn’t take anything for granted. He’s focused. He’s always into it.
“If you keep developing as a person, you’ll develop better as a player. That’s what I see in him. He’s always had the tools. He has phenomenal athletic ability. Now, he’s putting it all together and playing really, really well.”
In the season opener against Colorado State, Worthington recorded his first career interception. He also picked off a pass by UCLA QB Josh Rosen last weekend.
“I really love being back,” Worthington said. “It’s just amazing. … It’s been a really great experience being back out there with my fellas.”