DICKINSON COLLEGE quarterback Ian Mitchell has spent his entire career dodging would-be tacklers.

However, there is one challenge the 2006 Malvern Prep graduate wants to tackle head-on: cancer.

Mitchell has witnessed two of his grandparents and a high-school friend ultimately end up on the losing side of this terrible disease.

First, it was his grandfather in 1994 and then his grandmother - both on his mother's side - 10 years later.

"I was extremely close with my grandfather when I was younger," the junior said. "That was real tough especially because of my age. When [his grandmother] passed, she was actually my next-door neighbor. About a month before we found out she had cancer, she moved next door. I watched that process the whole time."

Mitchell never experienced this type of pain on the field, but he had to endure another tragedy.

In 2005, Mitchell lost his close friend Evan Brady to cancer.

Now, Mitchell is asking you to join him in the huddle. He's asking for a financial pledge that coincides with his performance on the football field. A person can pledge a certain amount for every yard Mitchell earns on the ground or through the air this season.

"[With Evan] I kind of knew what was coming," he said.

It didn't really help to make the process easier but Mitchell said Brady did everything he could to take his mind off his friends' situation.

"The thing with Evan, whenever you would go to visit or whenever you would talk to him on the phone, he would never let you worry about his condition," Mitchell said. "It was always 'How's football going?' 'Are you keeping your grades up?' just little things."

Mitchell and Brady met when they were little; they lived down the street from each other and played football together in Media. Mitchell said they started to hit it off when they got to Malvern Prep.

"We would always drive to school together, always to go school basketball games, hockey games together," he said. "It was like a connection. Every day was calling each other seeing what the other was doing."

When Brady passed away 3 years ago, Mitchell was moved by the outpouring of love and respect displayed by former classmates and people who knew Brady.

On TedSilary.com, the Web site run by Daily News sports writer Ted Silary, there is a tribute page to Brady, and the comments from readers show how much of an effect Brady had on others.

"I had an injury there and I had the opportunity to work out with Evan every day to recover," said Dan Gough, who played football at Malvern his freshman year before transferring to O'Hara. "We had great conversations and great stories. Every time I got down on myself for being hurt I just thought of him and what he has gone through, he helped me get through the injury and my first year of high school in general."

Said 2004 Malvern Prep graduate Dan Plunkett on the tribute page: "He always had a smile on his face and he always would come up to me and strike up a conversation. He had so many struggles in his life, but you would never guess it by the way he acted."

There were others who had never met Brady who sent their condolences and said how strong he was during his battle with cancer.

"I think the amazing thing is the people who never even met Evan who just heard about him and to say how much he impacted their life about how much he can fight for something," Mitchell said.

So far in Dickinson's 4-3 season, Mitchell has completed 96 of 167 passes for 1,294 yards and seven touchdowns.

Brady's parents started a charity 2 years ago in honor of their son. When Mitchell joined in, he said it was with Camp Can Do, a camp where kids with cancer can get away from their treatments and be normal kids.

Mitchell changed the charity to Evanfest this year.

"It's a charity in Evan's name where all the proceeds go to help families who have children with cancer," Mitchell said. The charity also runs a lacrosse tournament out of Malvern. Brady was a terrific lacrosse player and had earned a scholarship to Saint Joseph's.

"I think that was one of the hardest things for him for was that he couldn't play lacrosse again," Mitchell said.

Mitchell says that the charity has raised $25,000 to 30,000 in the 2 years of Evanfest. He hopes to eclipse that number on its own this year.

If you want to learn more about contributing to Evanfest, you can contact Mitchell at mitcheli@dickinson.edu.

"I never thought it would get this big," he said. "I thought it worked well throughout my high school. I never thought newspapers would be writing about it. It's great for the Bradys.

"People are worried about little things, but when they hear about Evan, they realize what fighting is really about." *