Written by Carolyn Campion for the Winter 2019 Possibilities Issue of The Bridge
What might the future hold for a multi-sport Severn athlete? What are the possibilities? For Evan Washburn '03, the answer is sports journalism. Evan is a CBS sports reporter, host and analyst. From August to February, Evan is an NFL reporter. From February through March Madness, he covers college basketball. Every spring, he is a college lacrosse analyst. And finally, every summer, he calls lacrosse games for the Chesapeake Bayhawks. Sounds like the perfect job for a lifelong sports enthusiast like Evan!
“Sports have always been my focus — my life — going back to as early as I can remember. It's always where I have felt most comfortable, and where I gleaned the most self-confidence.” For a kid who loved sports, Severn athletics was the perfect fit for Evan. While focusing on basketball, he was also able to play soccer, football and lacrosse. Evan explains, “Severn athletics was a rare mixture of challenge and inclusion. Things like football…I never played it before high school, but Severn welcomed me to the team. I was able to build confidence by getting involved.” And lucky for him, a lot of his teammates were guys he grew up with on the rec fields and competed against as a kid — Michael Phipps '03, Michael Biles '03, Kip Turner '03, and Zach Goldman '03 to name a few. They remain his best friends to this day.
Bold Moves and Life-Changing Events
Just before his senior year, Evan made a bold move to switch focus from playing college basketball to playing college lacrosse. With guidance from coaches Mr. Tank Duckett and Mr. Jamie McNealey, Evan realized that he would have more opportunities at Division 1 schools with lacrosse. Evan commented, “This is where Severn was really helpful to me. Severn created this atmosphere where they were behind me, pushed me in basketball and then helped me see options that were realistic for my future. When I realized that basketball wasn't for me, they were able to quickly shift me to lacrosse. I always remember that fondly.”
"The athletic experience at Severn prepared me in a way that was rare. I was not the most gifted athlete, but I had a good work ethic and intensity. With those traits and enough athleticism, I could participate in Severn sports to gain the necessary knowledge and confidence for the career I now hold.” — Evan Washburn '03
With the help of Severn connection Drew Larkin, the father of classmates Nick Larkin '03 and Tyler Larkin '03, Evan showed his highlight film to the University of Delaware's men's lacrosse coach Bob Shillinglaw, a Severna Park High School graduate. Evan was accepted to the University of Delaware and so began his journey into the world of college lacrosse.
Evan had a very successful lacrosse career at Delaware. According to Evan, “I'm a pretty intense guy when I get locked in on something. When I got to Delaware, I thought, ok, if I am here, I am going to be the best lacrosse player I can be.” As a 4-year letter winner, Evan's hard work on and off the field earned him first-team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors 50 and the UD Sportsmanship Award in 2008. A standout defender, he led Delaware to a berth in the NCAA Final Four during the 2007 season.
In spite of all his successes, Evan went through a lot physically at Delaware. His sophomore year, he tore his ACL and suffered a staph infection after the surgery. On Senior Day, the last home game of his college career, he tore his other ACL. “I was planning to play professionally in the MLL that summer, but that injury changed everything.”
With no chance of playing professional lacrosse, Evan had to come up with a second career plan. Sports broadcasting had always been in the back of his mind, but he didn't have any experience in the field. Evan explains, “I wasn't one of those kids who sat in front of the TV, turned the volume down and announced games. It was really as simple as asking myself, 'How do I stay involved with sports for my career?'”
Severn Connections Stay Strong
It was another Severn connection, Kip Turner '03, that got Evan's foot in the door of sports journalism. Kip, a successful college lacrosse player from UVA, had gotten to know an announcer named Joe Beninati — the same Joe Beninati who is now the play-by-play announcer for the Capitals! Joe lived in Annapolis at the time and announced a lot of Kip's college games. While Evan rehabilitated his knee that summer, Kip called him and said, “Hey, I know Joe Beninati. I can give you his number. Maybe he can help get you an internship or something.”
One cold call later, a connection was made. By Winter 2009 Evan started an unpaid internship at Comcast Sports Net in D.C. Right from the start, Evan threw himself into the job. Evan told his bosses that he was going to be there five days a week and do whatever they needed. Evan explains, “Once I locked in that this was what I was going to do, it became my life. I spent all my time at that station and became friends with the reporter and producer that worked in Baltimore. I just started tagging along with them wherever they would go — whether it was Orioles games or Ravens games — carrying gear, doing whatever. They were nice enough to let me do fake news reports so that I had at least a resume reel to start sending out. That was my life for two to three years.”
Evan added more to his resume reel when yet another Severn connection, Leif Elsmo '69, ESPN sportscaster and father of Nick Elsmo '07, invited him to help as an analyst for college lacrosse games. He sent it to ESPN and CBS College Sports, hoping for his break into sports broadcasting on a national level.
And the rest, as they say, is history. Evan started working for CBS College Sports in the spring of 2012 as a college lacrosse analyst and by August 2012 he was signed on as a CBS NFL reporter.
Evan's job requires the discipline, commitment and game-time intensity of a college athlete. As an NFL reporter, Evan spends Monday through Thursday at home preparing for his assigned weekend game. He needs to know everything about the players, the coaches, their schedules and their playing styles. Friday and Saturday, he is on site at the host city, preparing for game time on Sunday. Starting in February, he covers college basketball in a similar capacity. “I've been lucky enough to do the NCAA tournaments the last four years, which is an unbelievable experience.” Once that's over, he puts on a different hat and becomes a college lacrosse analyst. “I go up into the booth and wax poetic. I get to lay out my opinion and be more of a gas bag than a reporter who is otherwise restricted by the rules of sports journalism.” In the summers, he announces all the Chesapeake Bayhawks games.
While certainly exciting and a hard-earned dream come true for Evan, this job has a schedule that is sometimes tough on his family. Just ask his wife Kate! Evan was in Denver covering the AFC Championship game in 2016 when his wife unexpectedly went into labor five weeks early. Evan was in a meeting with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick when his father-in-law texted him a picture of his newborn son Hudson. “One day, my son is going to get a real kick out of that story!”
What are the possibilities for Evan now? Is there more in store for his future? “Sure, in this business there are always next steps. I'd like to do more studio hosting. What I do now as a live remote reporter is to take the viewer through what is happening. A studio hosting job offers more dimension and personality. There are not a lot of those jobs, so it will just take time.” For Evan, Severn athletics was the launching pad for a rewarding and exciting career in sports journalism.