Shawn Evans Retires From NLL After Legendary Career
November 27, 2023By: Adam Levi
Shawn Evans is as fearless and competitive of an athlete as the NLL has ever seen. That mentality has earned him legendary status.
This weekend, Evans announced his retirement from the NLL after 17 hard-fought and successful seasons.
He lived up to and then exceeded the hype that came along with being the 2nd overall pick in the 2005 NLL Entry Draft. Evans played for the original Rochester Knighthawks, Calgary Roughnecks, New England Black Wolves, Buffalo Bandits, the new Rochester Knighthawks, and the Vancouver Warriors. He retires as one of the greatest playmakers, goal scorers, and teammates that ever suited up and hopped on an NLL floor.
At 5’8”, Evans was never the biggest guy on the floor, but few men ever played with more heart. His passion for the game and for his fellow warriors on the floor was palpable, sometimes so much so that he would make you pay if you dared to go after one of his brothers in battle. Evans embodied what it meant to be a big team guy. That made him loved by those he played with and hated by those he played against.
HAMILTON, ON – JANUARY 29: NLL regular season game action between the Rochester Knighthawks and the Toronto Rock at the FirstOntario Centre on Saturday, January 29, 2022 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. (Christian Bender/NLL)
Having given so much of himself to the game he loves, this was by no means an easy decision for Evans to make. He was always going to play lacrosse, and with his competitive nature, he wasn’t going to be remembered as just another guy to pick up a stick and play.
“It was definitely one of the hardest decisions of my career,” Evans said. “Playing lacrosse is all I’ve known playing for the last 36 years but playing professionally for the last 18-19 years, to make that announcement was tough, but it was relieving as well because I think I gave so much and have done so much – I won at every level. I’ve had a great career, and I’m honored that I was fortunate enough to play so long.”
Every year from 2006 to 2023, Evans made a case that he should be considered one of the top players in the league. As a rookie with the original Rochester Knighthawks, Evans was one of only five players in the league that recorded 35+ points and 100+ loose ball recoveries.
After that impressive inaugural year, Evans kept improving and in areas you wouldn’t expect a forward to thrive in. The Peterborough, Ontario native is the only forward in NLL history that has recorded more than 100 caused turnovers, and he and John Tavares are the only forwards in NLL history that have collected more than 1,500 loose balls.
This is before even mentioning that:
his 879 points are the 4th-most in NLL regular season history
his 1,358 points are the 5th-most in NLL regular season history
his 270 games played are the 5th-most in NLL regular season history
and his 479 goals are the 9th-most in NLL regular season history.
Those facts speak for themselves, but they showcase just how unrelenting Evans was when he stepped on the floor. As a forward in the NLL, your primary goal is to score goals and to try to distribute the ball to your teammates so they can score goals. But for Evans, there wasn’t ever a part of the game that he didn’t want to be a part of. Considering the toll that took on him physically, especially as he got older, the fact that he was closing in on two decades of NLL service is arguably the most impressive of all of Evans’ accomplishments.
“If there’s one thing you can remember me for, it’s that I left it all out on the floor,” Evans said. “The most important thing to me as a player was gaining my teammates’ trust and my team’s trust. In order to win and be successful, you’ve got to have that. That’s why I went out there, led by example, grinded it out, battled on the floor, stuck up for my teammates, and did everything to help my team be successful.
“The grind on my body, being a smaller guy, it’s definitely harder on the body getting hit and whacked, especially going through some injuries over the last couple of years – all of that played a little bit of a factor in my decision [to retire].”
Before he had been battered and bruised too many times, a sprightly 21-year-old Evans was part of a dominant 2007 Knighthawks team that went 14-2 and didn’t lose a single game from January 20th through to the end of the season when they won the NLL championship on May 12th against the Arizona Sting. He played alongside a bevy of NLL Hall of Famers, including John Grant Jr., Shawn Williams, Pat O’Toole, Regy Thorpe, and many other notable names. It’s hard to find a better group for a youthful, eager, and talented forward to play with than that one.
Over the years, Evans proved to us time and time again that he was one of the greatest players in NLL history. There was no period of his career where this was more evident than from 2013-2017 – he spent 2012-2015 with the Calgary Roughnecks and was with the New England Black Wolves from 2015-2018.
During this four-season stretch, Evans tallied 100 or more points in each season. In 2013 and 2015, his efforts earned him MVP honors. To this day, he is one of only a few players in NLL history with five or more 100+ point seasons, and no one has made as many consecutive 100+ point seasons. Outside of winning his NLL championship, this time of his career in the NLL will be the one Evans looks back on most fondly.
“I tried to leave it all on the floor and be my best,” Evans said. “If I can’t be my best, there’s no point in me playing. I play in one mode, and that’s hard. Those years (five 100-point seasons), I was just feeling it. It was a huge accomplishment. Being a smaller player, I was hoping to be a role model for those smaller players as well.”
While stepping away from professional lacrosse will be difficult for Evans, it will be hard to keep him away from the game for too long. Evans is coaching Switzerland’s national team, and he even suggested that he would like to stay involved with the NLL at some point.
Whenever that time comes, Evans wholeheartedly recognizes that now is the right time to step away. He is a man who has only ever known how to play one way: hard. Having logged as many minutes as he has, there is no reason to keep proving how great of a player he is. We know.
What matters most now is being with the ones he loves and supporting their dreams. Evans’ family of six is growing up fast, but his four children are still young enough that he will be able to be present for so many of their big life moments – it has been a brutal part of his job for the last 17 years to have missed so many moments already.
“Family right now is the most important,” Evans said. “They put up with me. I’ve got four kids and a wife. I’ve been on the road missing many things and moments in my kids’ lives, so right now, family is the most important.”
Evans left no stone unturned during his time in the NLL. He will no doubt be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Until then, he can finally take a break and rest easy, knowing that what he accomplished in the NLL will not soon be forgotten.
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