In the FCS Huddle: UNH's Matt Evans savors Buchanan Award

Before the season, Matt Evans never set his sights on individual awards.

"I just try, and want to be, the best player I can be," Evans said. "If I play well and get those honors, that is just added incentive. Obviously, it means more to me for the team to have a better season."

While he wasn't looking for personal accolades, the New Hampshire junior linebacker's trophy case got more crowded this season. He has made room for the 2011 Buck Buchanan Award, which honors the outstanding defensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision, is presented by The Sports Network and sponsored by

"It was really something I didn't expect," Evans said. "It's a huge honor to be a part of that prestigious group."

In leading the nation during the regular season in total tackles (154) and solo stops (88), Evans posted double-digit tackles in 10 of New Hampshire's 11 games. Evans also snagged a pair of interceptions (one for a touchdown), forced three fumbles and registered six tackles for loss.

"Matt is one of those kids who is a very instinctive football player," New Hampshire coach Sean McDonnell said. "He's not a huge linebacker, he weighs about 215, 220 pounds soaking wet. He's got great speed, he's got great athleticism and he tackles very well. But the thing that Matty does is he understands how people are attacking. He also knows how to get there, and gets around blocks."

The instincts that Evans, who is officially listed at 6 foot, 227 pounds, showed this season have been refined since he started playing football at a young age in Hanover, Mass.

Those instincts received an upgrade the past three seasons, as the Wildcats defense went head-to-head in practice with one of the best offenses in the nation.

"Our offense is definitely one of the best in the country," Evans said. "It's always been that way, at least since I got here. But it's helped with the change on defense; we've gotten much better since I've been here."

A self-proclaimed crazy New England Patriot fan, Evans started playing football in second grade and has benefited from family support his entire career.

"It's kind of my own thing (football). Ever since I started it's made me happy," Evans said. "My mom and family have always supported me. She makes it to every game."

Throughout Evans' career at New Hampshire, Deborah Evans has witnessed her son establish himself as one of the top linebackers in CAA Football, and, more importantly to Evans, to consistently help the Wildcats reach the playoffs. They are in the midst of eight-year playoff stretch, the longest current streak in the FCS.

It's always been team-first for the Evans, and he hopes his most recent individual honor helps the Wildcats program in the future.

"Hopefully, it (the Buchanan Award) gives more recognition to the program," Evans said. "This isn't just some individual award. I wouldn't have all the tackles if weren't for my defensive line in front of me. I've always been team-focused, and we have so many great individuals on this team."