Tanner McEvoy went to Wisconsin to be a quarterback.
So far, he’s intercepted more passes than he has thrown.
Somehow, that seems to fit perfectly in the journey McEvoy has been on since leaving Bergen Catholic High School in Hillsdale, N.J. The road started at South Carolina and has been full of switchbacks since.
“I have always wanted to play quarterback. I still do, and I still have the opportunity to play here,” McEvoy said. “It’s still in the cards. It’s still what the coaches want, still what I want.”
In fact, McEvoy, a 6-foot-6, 223-pound redshirt sophomore practiced at quarterback with the Badgers this week when the team held workouts for its underclassmen.
“I just wanted to get out there and see if I could still throw it,” he said. “Obviously, I was a little rusty, but it was fun to get out there. I feel like I played pretty well. It really doesn’t matter now. I’m not worried about playing quarterback next year.”
For now, McEvoy is worried about playing safety for the No. 19 Badgers when they face No. 8 South Carolina in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 in Orlando, Fla.
“As the season started getting near the end, I had a hunch that would be the matchup, and that’s the way it worked out,” McEvoy said. “I am really excited to play them.”
McEvoy remains close with several of his former teammates. South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw called McEvoy “a good friend,” and McEvoy keeps in regular touch with fellow New Jersey native Damiere Byrd and former roommates Mike Matulis and Will Sport.
“I am looking forward to getting down to Orlando and hanging out with those guys a little bit,” McEvoy said. “It’s going to be a fun week and an even better game.”
McEvoy signed with the Gamecocks in 2011 as a three-star prospect with one year of high school quarterbacking experience. He redshirted as a true freshman and then transferred at the beginning of fall camp his redshirt freshman season. At the time, McEvoy was the Gamecocks’ fifth-string quarterback.
“We’ve got a lot of quarterbacks here,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said at the time. “Personally, I believe that was the best thing for him to do.”
After leaving South Carolina, McEvoy landed at Arizona Western College, a junior college in Yuma, Ariz., and threw for 1,943 yards while rushing for 414 and amassing 31 touchdowns on the way to being named All-Arizona Community College Athletic Conference offensive player of the year.
“It was a lot of fun,” McEvoy said of his stop in the desert. “We had a great team out there, a lot of great people and great players. It was fun to be out there and be on the field and play quarterback and throw some touchdowns. I guess you could say I’m happy to be back in Division I.”
McEvoy is listed as a backup at strong safety heading into the Capital One Bowl. He has started three games this season, mostly in specialty defensive packages. He has played in 10 games, totaling 24 tackles, one interception and four pass breakups.
“He’s an excellent athlete,” Spurrier said. “I am glad he is doing well at Wisconsin. I know a lot of our guys are looking forward to seeing him down in Orlando.”
When McEvoy arrives in Orlando, he will have logged more than 5,000 miles of travel in a career that has spanned the country.
“It’s been a journey, but that’s how things work out,” he said. “I learned a lot on the road, and it’s worked out for me. I am just happy to be in the situation I am in.”
After one year of experience in each, McEvoy considers the SEC and the Big Ten “pretty similar,” he said.
“Obviously, the SEC has won however many championships in a row, but our teams can compete with some of their teams,” McEvoy said, “and I think we will be able to show that on Jan. 1.”