Jahri Evans has never forgotten where he started.
On Monday, Evans rang the bell at Frankford High School, welcoming students as they filed into the hallways for the start of a new school year. From time to time, the six-time NFL Pro Bowl guard has been a notable presence walking the halls of his alma mater; as well as giving his time and resources toward the football team. Evans' foundation has been a cornerstone for his efforts over the years both at his high school and his college alma mater, Bloomsburg University.
Evans donated $500, 000 dollars toward Bloomsburg's purchasing of new a scoreboard at the football stadium. This will allow the university to host playoff football games, and will offer instant replay. The university will unveil the scoreboard at the start of their football season on Saturday.
"I think deep down he is a man of character and he is giving back the same way he had opportunities both here and in Philadelphia to succeed and aspire for greatness," said Bloomsburg president Bashar W. Hanna, who met Evans during the football team's annual golf outing this past spring. "Hopefully young men — especially young men of color — will see him as a role model and one day can do the same to change and transform their own communities."
In 2009, Evans sponsored a scholarship for minority out-of-state grad students who entered the exercise science program, which is what Evans studied in as an undergrad. Evans' foundation has also sponsored football scholarships. The First and Goal Scholarship has allowed other student-athletes to compete for the university. He also makes frequent stops to Bloomsburg's football practice, offering mentorship and advice to current players on manhood and ways to conduct themselves off the field.
"We always want to be a leader in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference," said Bloomsburg University Athletic Director Dr. Michael McFarland. "This is one more advantage to showcase Bloomsburg University, what it does and what our student-athletes do. What is equally important is what our alumni can do to give back to really showcase how great of a career someone at Bloomsburg can have and what it means to them."
Evans grew up in Nicetown in North Philadelphia, with his mother and three older sisters. Sports were always a part of his world but in middle school, Evans began to attract attention from a high school in Connecticut for baseball.
"My coach came to me," said Evans. "He thought because I was a good student, I was on the honor roll all through high school, I was athletic and I could play that I would be a good fit for that school."
Evans didn't play football until he attended Frankford. Just before his senior season, Evans was playing in a pickup basketball game at the local YMCA. While getting a rebound, Evans dislocated and fractured his patella. All the attention he had drawn from colleges after a breakout junior year had vanished. His focus turned to academics, leading to an academic scholarship to Bloomsburg.
"His gift is an example of regardless of where the road starts for you, your journey is only predicted by your own hard work," said Hanna.
Evans spoke at Frankford High's 2018 graduation in May. He also makes frequent stops to Frankford throughout the football season, running drills and pulling players for one-on-one coaching. Eight years ago he donated money toward creating a weight room at the football stadium.
"That was something I didn't have when I was in high school," said Evans. "So I thought that was something that could help the program, help the school and [is] a good way for the kids to get ready for the season and build that camaraderie working out together at the stadium."
Throughout the spring and summer months, Evans runs free football camps at Frankford's football stadium for inner-city youth. Over the last decade, Evans has brought a number of local NFL players from different positions to help with coaching.
"Last year was real awesome because a lot of the Eagles guys showed up, [like] Malcolm Jenkins, Alshon Jeffery," said Evans.
Frankford football coach Bill Systma met Evans last spring during a punt, pass and kick competition. While catching up, Systma shared his vision for a revamped locker room. Evans, who regularly uses the facilities through his camps, saw the need for the renovation and immediately pledged money through his foundation to help with revamping the locker room.
"He is helping out with it, him and the foundation, which we're really appreciative of," said Systma.
Evans, who won a Super Bowl with the 2009 New Orleans Saints, was drafted in the fourth round of the 2006 NFL draft by the Saints after they traded their fourth-round pick to the Eagles for Hollins Thomas and a draft pick. Evans played 10 seasons for the Saints before joining the Green Bay Packers last season. Currently, he is a free agent.
In April of 2015, Evans became a minority owner of the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul, joining former Saints teammate Marques Colston.