While multiple Division I athletes played two sports in high school, two-sport athletes at the college level are much less common.
Penn men's lacrosse has one in junior defender Mark Evanchick, who also held a role as a linebacker on the football team this past season.
Evanchick wasn't able to take the field for the Quakers in the fall due to multiple injuries, and he has now decided to focus solely on lacrosse in order to stay healthy for seasons to come.
“I knew I had a starting role on the lacrosse team, and I didn’t want to put a great season that we could potentially have had going forward at risk,” Evanchick said.
However, the work he put in to manage both sports at the same time deserves merit, and it’s worth examining just how good the defender has been on both the football and lacrosse fields.
At Darien High School in Connecticut, Evanchick was a dominant high school football player. He holds the Connecticut record for the most career sacks with 63.5, which surpassed former NFL defensive end and Super Bowl champion Dwight Freeney’s high school mark. Evanchick was also named the Gatorade Connecticut Football Player of the Year his senior season.
Even with his countless accomplishments in high school football, Evanchick chose lacrosse as his sole sport coming into college.
“The lacrosse recruiting timeline started way before football. [For] football, you weren’t allowed to be contacted until your junior year, whereas [for] lacrosse, you could go on unofficial visits before your junior year," Evanchick said. "Because the recruiting timelines came earlier, I wasn’t going to take offers from schools like Penn and other outstanding academic institutions and just leave it to chance because I didn’t want to leave my future in jeopardy."
While Evanchick is still fond of both sports that he grew up playing, if there's one thing he misses about football he misses, it's the camaraderie of being one team on and off the field.
Despite that, choosing lacrosse wasn't a complete shock to the people around him, as Evanchick was a three-time all-state selection and two-time Connecticut Player of the Year in lacrosse over his high school career.
Now, the junior has further translated his defensive-minded skill set to the college level for the fifth-ranked Quakers, who took their first outright Ivy League title since 1986 with a win over Dartmouth on Saturday.
Last season, Evanchick was the premier defender for the Red and Blue, tallying 19 ground balls and eight caused turnovers, enough to earn him first team All-Ivy honors as a sophomore. This year, he has been productive once again, with 10 ground balls and three forced turnovers so far.
Penn's coaching staff has certainly taken note of Evanchick's lockdown qualities. As such, he has nearly always been assigned to cover the best opposing attackman.
“I look forward to it and take pride in [guarding the best attacker]," Evanchick said. "I look at it as a pretty big challenge as I prepare and ready for the test ahead. ... It’s really not just me doing the job. It’s a defensive team effort.”
Taking on those difficult assignments game after game has made Evanchick a crucial component of the Red and Blue’s top-50 defense across all of D-I.
With the Ivy League and NCAA Tournaments ahead of them, the Quakers have a lot of important games ahead, and Evanchick's performance on defense will continue to be crucial to their success.