Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Rodney Evans: He can drive for miles and miles and miles

It is 585 miles from Rodney Evans' house in Clarksville, Tenn., to the James Madison Convocation Center in Harrisonburg, Va. Nine hours, 22 minutes. It's another 585 miles back from Harrisonburg to Clarksville. Nine hours on a good night.

A hop, skip and a jump for Rodney Evans, who has made that trek for four years to watch daughter Dawn play basketball. He estimates he has attended 95 percent of the Dukes' home games.

It sure would have made things easier had she gone to University of Tennessee-Chattanooga (182 miles away), her initial plan. But it couldn't have ended up any better. Evans is the toast of the CAA -- the league's all-time leading scorer and 2011 Player of the Year who will lead her CAA Tournament champion Dukes into the NCAA Tournament on Saturday. It will be No. 11 James Madison vs. No. 6 Oklahoma at John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville -- making Rodney Evans' trek about an hour or so longer.

"You know what?" he said, huge smile spanning his face. "I've gotten to the point where it doesn't phase me. I did this for my son, remember."

Ah, yes, but Bluefield College, located in Bluefield, Va., is a mere 427 miles from Clarksville. Dale Evans was a second-team Division II NAIA All-American guard there his senior year -- and Dad, as with Dawn, was a regular in the stands.

"I listen to good, old fashioned gospel and it uplifts me," Rodney said. "I'll get calls while I'm driving. Dawn will call. My wife will call. I just thank God I have the freedom to do this."

A retired engineer, Rodney bought a new truck in November. The mileage on it exceeds 20,000. Dawn's mom Rosalyn comes, too, though not as often given her job, director of high schools for the Clarksville-Montgomery County Schools. And when she's along, they stop. Outside of Knoxville, they're regulars at a Popeyes and Bristol is home to one of their favorite hotels.

"These last couple years, it has been surreal to watch her and to think this is all winding down ..." Rosalyn said. "What I think about most is the family atmosphere at JMU. They have been absolutely wonderful to her. It's nine hours away. She's been sick, but they take such good care of her. It has been a blessing to have her there."

Perhaps Rodney enjoys the drives so much because it reminds him of some of his favorite times with Dawn. They traveled routinely to California back in her acting days during the pilot season. These two were in heaven just riding around Clarksville windows down, '70s music blaring.

"Earth, Wind and Fire," Dawn said.

"We'd jam," Dad added. "We'd open up the sun roof, even if it was cold," Rodney said.

Rodney preferred that to another of Dawn's favorite activities when she was a kid  -- giving Dad manicures and pedicures.

"She would charge me these outrageous prices," he said.

"He'd never pay," she added.

Gallbladder surgery prevented him from Senior Night at JMU. He won't miss any more games, though. That includes pro games.

What if Dawn goes to the West Coast?

"I think I'll upgrade a little," Rodney said. "I like to fly, too."


  1. Great story, ladyswish! Rodney Evans should be a role model for fathers everywhere ... a special man with a special family.

  2. Great job Rodney and Rosalyn, you guys are some of the great ones. Keep up the good work, your neighbor in Clarksville.