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Monday, January 1, 2018

Keegan

Tom Keegan: Receiver Evan Fairs has football career pointing in right direction

Kansas wide receiver Evan Fairs (19) celebrates a completion during first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (TFV Media via AP)

Kansas wide receiver Evan Fairs (19) celebrates a completion during first half of an NCAA football game, Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (TFV Media via AP)

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Recruiting generates more excitement, but college football is all about how players develop, not how many stars they have next to their names in high school.

Kansas wide receiver Evan Fairs came out of Fulshear High in Foster, Texas, with a two-star rating from Rivals. Halfway into his KU career, Fairs shapes up as the second-brightest potential star among the 14 high school players in KU’s recruiting Class of 2016, ranking behind only running back Khalil Herbert, a fellow two-star prospect.

After making one catch as a freshman, Fairs ranked third on the team in receptions (24) and receiving yards (335), behind Steven Sims and tight end Ben Johnson, in both categories, and led the team with 14 yards per catch.

Fairs shared feedback he took to heart to bring a more productive attitude into his sophomore season.

“Coach Beaty said my freshman year I wasn’t very consistent in practices,” Fairs said. “I would come in Monday have a great practice, then I’d come in on Tuesday and have an OK practice and then on Wednesday a bad practice. He would just say, ‘I need to see more consistency out of you so I can trust you in the game.’ This year I took that into consideration and I’ve been able to play every practice like it’s my last.”

Fairs said the Beaty chat wasn’t the only motivational factor that fueled him throughout his sophomore season.

“I thought about my family,” Fairs said. “I have a lot of big shoes to fill. My father played in the NFL. My sister’s a professional volleyball player. I just felt like I was a disappointment to my family, so I had to step up to the plate and be what I was supposed to be.”

Fairs is showing it’s not how you start a career, rather how you finish it. The same can be said for any one football game, and nobody knows that better than his father, Eric Fairs, who once was on the wrong end of the greatest comeback in NFL history.

Eric Fairs played linebacker for the Houston Oilers team that lost to the Buffalo Bills, 41-38, in a Jan. 3, 1993 playoff game the Oilers led, 35-3, early in the third quarter. The Bills reeled off four touchdowns in the third quarter and ended up forcing overtime. The Oilers won the coin toss, but the Bills won the game on Steve Christie’s 32-yard field goal.

“He told me they were hyped in the locker room (at the half), ready to have champagne poured on them after the game and they came out and they lost it,” Evan Fairs said. “That’s probably the story he tells me most.”

Eric Fairs played six seasons with the Houston Oilers and one with the Atlanta Falcons and is now a custom-home builder in the Houston area. Eric said his father offers a special feature in the homes he builds.

“He has a closet, a private door, a panic room, it looks like a shelf and when you push it in, there’s a panic room. You don’t know it’s there. It’s just like part of a wall,” Evan said. “If you push it there’s a little private room behind it. It’s a secret room.”

Fairs might as well have been hiding in it at the beginning of his freshman season. But Jason Phillips, then receivers coach at Kansas, told Fairs that plans had changed, and in advance of the fifth game of the 2016 season, Phillips made a three-way call with Fairs and his parents.

“He said, ‘We need your son to play. He’s been looking good in practice and we’d like him to play. Is that OK with you?’ I wanted to play to get on the field and get the jitters out of the way,” Fairs said.

Phillips, who was not retained on the coaching staff at Oregon State after a coaching change there, was responsible for recruiting Fairs to Kansas.

Fairs originally committed to Maryland, recruited there by 16-year NFL veteran wide receiver Keenan McCardell.

“We had a real close relationship, and I was talking to him and he told me he got fired,” Fairs said. “I asked him where I should go. I told him all my offers (including Illinois). He said, ‘Jason Phillips, I know that man personally. He’s a really good coach. He knows what he’s doing.’ That’s why I committed to Kansas, so I could get coaching from him.”

Beaty shuffled his coaching staff, Phillips went to Oregon State, and Doug Meacham was hired as offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.

“Coach Meacham always says there are no 50-50 balls,” Fairs said. “The ball’s up in the air. We have to go get it.”

At 6-foot-3, Fairs is better equipped to do so than many receivers. He showed a knack for doing that, although like the rest of KU’s receivers he was not immune to dropping easier catches than the ones he pulled down in traffic.

His first big game came in a loss at Ohio, where he caught three passes for 77 yards. If not for a catch being called back by a penalty, Fairs would have had his first 100-yard game and first touchdown that week.

He had to wait until the loss at Texas (104 yards on seven receptions) for his 100-yard reception game and the loss at Oklahoma State for his first touchdown, a 33-yard catch from Peyton Bender on which he twisted his body in mid-air and managed to stay in bounds in the front, right corner of the end zone.

His first college TD reception was in an impressive one. Halfway through his career, he has shown enough promise to suggest it will be far from his last.

Comments

Pius Waldman 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Great story Tom. Looks like Fairs might be headed in the right direction. Presently our Jayhawks need to find 2 and 3 star guys and develop them to success.

Ray Winger 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Liked the little input by 'Beatty' and what 'Meachum' said about the 50/50 balls, that influenced Mr. Fairs. Coach Herman of Texas, was asked by TV Reporter 'who had influenced his Coaching?. He said 'when he was at Rice, Coach Beatty...' When a player is trying so hard, sometimes a phrase or idea really sticks, and makes a difference.

[''] 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Should have redshirted him in 2016. What did KU or Fairs get out of a 1-catch season in 2016???? Yet another blunder by this staff.

Jeff Coffman 3 weeks, 1 day ago

I wonder how Beatty does on Monday and Tuesday practices. Hopefully he'll be more consistent in practices and than he can be trusted for game time soon.

Jeff Coffman 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Congratulations Keegan, I have asked for someone that has improved each year under Beatty and you found him. Let's hope Beatty and Meacham can continue to develop him.

Unfortunately I think this is an example of a shortcut beaty took. Starting a 2 star recruit is rare for a true freshman, with only 1 catch for 8 yards in 2016, it indicates he needed to redshirt. I would say this is me being a Monday morning qb.

Dirk Medema 3 weeks, 1 day ago

If we only look at the statistical results (1 catch for 8 yards) it doesn't appear that there was a good return for that investment. Unfortunately, there are other factors that come into play:

  1. The other WR options on the team. Coach still has an obligation to put a team on the field, and it sounds like Fairs was one of the better options, though maybe not consistently enough.

  2. The fact that this season was as strong as it was could possibly have been a result of his participation in those games at the end pf last season. From the stories, it certainly sounds like it had an influence on his preparation.

  3. Similar to #2, "I wanted to play to get on the field and get the jitters out of the way,” Fairs said.

Andy Godwin 3 weeks, 1 day ago

As indicated, Khalil Herbert was also a great find and could have had an even better season if he had remained healthy. Here is hoping that more student-athletes from the 2016 recruiting class are ready to contribute and will have a stellar redshirt Sophomore/Junior season.

Jack Joiner 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Really good story. His family background is interesting reading. I am sure there are more.

John Brazelton 3 weeks, 1 day ago

I liked his high school recruiting video. He was the one high school receiver I saw who went into the air and attacked the football during HS games.

Kevin Robert Fest 3 weeks, 1 day ago

We have enough 5'11" receivers, we need length, he has plenty plus an NFL pedigree hopefully he breaks out soon.

Dirk Medema 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Sounds like the coaching staff is developing players?

And Fairs isn't even one of the 5 receiving post-season recognition.

Dirk Medema 3 weeks, 1 day ago

Khalil Herbert was a 2 by Rivals, but a 3 by ESPN & 247.

Either way, his performance this year speaks to losing Octavius Matthews, and more player development by the coaching staff.

Bryson Stricker 3 weeks ago

"Should have redshirted him in 2016. What did KU or Fairs get out of a 1-catch season in 2016???? Yet another blunder by this staff."

Oh how I love you fellow KU fans.

Edward Daub 3 weeks ago

I was at that Bills-Oilers Game and saw some loyal Bills Fans exiting when the score was 3-35! I am Glad I stayed, still the greatest Game I have ever eye-witnessed! Lets Go Buffalo!

Jim Stauffer 2 weeks, 6 days ago

Maybe the problem at KU is that this "Beatty" guy is doing the coaching instead of the guy we hired, David Beaty.

How can you criticize a guy when you don't even know his name.

Bill Kackley 2 weeks, 6 days ago

It was encouraging to see Keagan finally right a story about K U football with a positive slant to it.

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