Robinson, the nation’s top offensive tackle prospect and one of eight Alabama early enrollees, chose the Crimson Tide over home-state LSU back in September. Robinson grew up in West Monroe, La., a breeding ground for LSU fans.
Evans, one of the top-rated linebackers in the country, is an Auburn High star who spurned hometown Auburn University to sign with Alabama.
“I know exactly how that feels to be in his shoes. It was an extremely tough decision,” Robinson said Wednesday. “But at the end of the day, you have to do what’s best for you. You’re going to be the one that has to spend the next three or four years here. So you can’t make a decision based on what other people are going to think or what other people are going to say.”
In a signing ceremony at Auburn High’s gym, loud cheers broke out immediately after Evans placed the Crimson Tide hat on his head and committed to Alabama. But there were also a few boo birds.
“I experienced the most backlash I ever had in my life,” Robinson said. “Leaving Louisiana to go play for not just any school, but Alabama. You just have to let it roll off your shoulders. Just take it with a grain of salt. It wasn’t that big of a deal.”
In recent years, Alabama has swooped in and taken the top players from the backyard of a rival. Along with Robinson, safety Landon Collins and linebacker Reuben Foster are two that come to mind.
Collins chose the Tide over LSU in a televised announcement, as his mother disagreed in an infamous video clip. Foster had the Auburn logo tattooed on his forearm, before flipping to Alabama.
So if Evans, a consensus five-star prospect, needs help dealing with the backlash of his decision, he’ll have plenty of teammates to lean upon.
Foster, who also attended Auburn High, played a big part in Evans decision. The two built a friendship when Foster moved from Georgia to Auburn.
“As soon as Rashaan committed to us, Reuben Foster called me and absolutely said that he was a much better recruiter than I was and he was really responsible for that,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.
Added linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton, another Alabama signee: “Reuben was actually his host here when he took his official (visit). I heard he was down there last weekend with him. I’m pretty sure Reuben did a lot of work on him getting him to sign with us.”
Hamilton, who played AAU basketball with Evans, said he wasn’t shocked when Evans chose Alabama. He said he spoke with Evans on Monday and felt confident about the Tide’s chances.
“Alabama speaks for itself,” Hamilton said. “Everything that we have here, every recruit knows what we have. It’s just their decision, do they want to join us and be part of the team or go elsewhere.”
After long being considered a virtual lock for the Tigers, Evans ultimately rolled with the Tide. It came as surprise to nearly everyone except those close to the Tide’s program.
“I talked to him (Tuesday), and I felt really good about where he was yesterday with him and his family,” Saban said. “I also talked to him this morning and I felt really good about where he was with him and his decision making and that he would come to the University of Alabama.”
Evans’ parents, who both attended Auburn, expressed their concerns to Saban about how people close to them and the fanbase would receive the news. But Saban assured them it would be the right decision.
“We had lots of conversations with his family, because they were concerned about their circumstance of being where they were and the decision they were going to make and how people would to react to it,” Saban said. “I said, ‘However many people you think you’re not going to make happy there you’re going to make a lot more people happy here,’ and that’s exactly what happened. We’re excited about getting a fine young man who has such talent in our program and is such a good fit from a position standpoint at outside linebacker.”
With the decision behind him and his addition to the Tide’s 2014 class official, Evans may be one of the more heavily analyzed players from this recruiting cycle, particularly from the state of Alabama. Still, Saban and the Tide are elated to have added a quality player and have high expectations for him.
“We’re excited about Rashaan, who not only is a fantastic athlete, and exactly what we’re looking for in terms of the more athletic, fast-twitch edge player who can rush but also has great character, is a really good person,” Saban said. “I think will provide leadership in our program that will be beneficial to us being successful in the future.”