[Baltimore Sun] After nearly losing his arm, Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse midfielder Ryan Evans takes nothing for granted

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In the immediate aftermath of a boating accident that nearly cost him his left arm, Ryan Evans was told he might have to sit out six months before returning to Johns Hopkins men’s lacrosse for his sophomore year.

Instead, Evans was sidelined for less than two months and missed only the first game of the 2022 season. A desire to rejoin his teammates outweighed any worry about his arm.

“Those two months leading up to that game were the craziest my life had ever been at that time,” he said.

More than two years removed from that incident, Evans has grown into a contributing member of a deep midfield for the Blue Jays. The Lutherville native and Boys’ Latin graduate has compiled 14 goals and eight assists in 38 games (including four starts) and has made nine appearances this spring for No. 3 Johns Hopkins (8-3, 3-0 Big Ten).

“Ryan has been a consistent contributor since he got here,” coach Peter Milliman said. “He’s always right there and in the mix.”

Lacrosse, particularly with the Blue Jays, might have been Evans’ destiny. His maternal grandfather, Joe Cowan, was a three-time All-America first-team attackman at Johns Hopkins who totaled 74 goals and 123 assists and was the 1969 recipient of both the Turnbull Award as the nation’s top attackman and the Enners Award as the country’s top player.

Evans’ father Dan was a four-year defenseman with the Blue Jays from 1992 to 1996. Evans’ mother Joanna was an attacker at Temple for one season, his aunt Kelly Cowan was an attacker and midfielder who helped Virginia capture NCAA championships in 1991 and 1993, and his maternal grandmother Ozzie played at St. Paul’s School for Girls.

Despite that lineage, Evans said he played basketball, football, soccer, squash and tennis.

“The nice thing about my parents is, they never forced me to play lacrosse,” he said. “I just happened to fall in love with it.”

Johns Hopkins midfielder Ryan Evans carries the ball against Loyola Maryland on Feb. 17 at Homewood Field. Evans wears tape on the chin of his helmet with the initials “PD” and a cross written on it in honor of his late uncle. (Handout)

Another popular family passion is boating. Evans and his brother Connor swam and kayaked in the Severn River during summer camp annually near Annapolis, and the family vacations annually in Key Largo, Florida. Evans said his three favorite destinations for swimming are the Andaman Sea off of Krabi Province in Thailand, the Mediterranean Sea near Spain, and the Florida Keys off of Key Largo.

On New Year’s Eve 2021 in Florida, both Evans boys were returning from an afternoon on the water with some friends when the pilot briefly stopped a 30-foot outboard boat for a quick dip in the water. While Ryan Evans tried to climb the back of the boat and slipped back into the water, a passenger accidentally started the engine.

Evans said he knew the propeller had clipped him on his left shoulder. But he wasn’t in pain.

“It felt like someone hit you with a pillow in a pillow fight,” he recalled. “It was super quick, and it felt like nothing.”

But when Evans hauled himself back into the boat, a friend immediately started the boat and accelerated as fast as he could. Connor Evans used a towel as a tourniquet to wrap his older brother’s shoulder as the friend called his father.

Back on land, Dan Evans and the family were preparing for dinner. When the friend’s father called him to inform him that Ryan had been hit by the propeller, Dan Evans raced out of the house to meet them without informing his wife or in-laws.

“I was numb,” the elder Evans said. “In my mind, I was like, ‘OK, he’s not dead. He was hit by the propeller. How bad could it be?’ But of course, there are a million questions.”

Despite nonstop blood seepage, Ryan Evans said he felt calm. But when he saw his father from the back of an ambulance, he “completely broke down.”

At an area hospital, doctors informed the Evans family that the propeller left lacerations of 3/4 to 1 1/2 inches, but did not cause any severe damage to muscle, nerves or arteries. After surgery that involved 50 to 60 stitches, Ryan Evans was discharged and returned to Baltimore a few days later.

After a boating accident on New Year’s Eve 2021, Evans had surgery on his left shoudler that involved 50 to 60 stitches. (Handout)

 

After missing the 2022 season opener against Jacksonville, Evans played a few minutes against Towson and Georgetown. In the Blue Jays’ fourth game, he scored two goals in an 11-10 victory over Loyola Maryland that would be the program’s 1,000th all-time win.

Milliman said that he thought Evans would miss the entire season.

“I think because he kind of attacked each phase of it, it didn’t seem like he was really tentative,” he said. “He had a pad on there, and he was noncontact for a while, but once he was strong enough, he just kind of powered through.”

Evans understands how fortunate he is to have survived that accident.

“I’m getting emotional thinking about it because I keep thinking about it,” he said. “I literally was centimeters away from losing my arm or possibly being dead and being at the bottom of the ocean.”

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That feeling intensifies when Evans remembers his late uncle Paul Dettor, who died July 31, 2016, at 49 after piloting a boat that struck a rock jetty near the mouth of Whitehall Creek in Anne Arundel County. But Evans believes his uncle was his “guardian angel.”

“I genuinely believe that he was there and saved me that day,” he said. “When I was in my boating accident, I thought about my uncle’s accident a lot. I was like, ‘How does this happen to a family twice?’ It was just a surreal and scary experience.”

Since his days at Boys’ Latin, Evans has worn tape on the chin of his helmet with the initials “PD” and a cross written on it. Dan Evans said his son’s tribute to his uncle and corresponding life have been gratifying to watch.

“It brings a tear to my eye,” he said. “The joy and pride I have in the young man that Ryan is — lacrosse is wonderful and I’m thrilled that he gets the opportunity to play, but life is so much bigger, and little things like tape around your facemask that honors your uncle and your faith are what’s important.”

As frightening as his boating accident was, Ryan Evans said he has learned a valuable lesson.

“One thing that it taught me is that life is short and you have to live every moment to the fullest and to its entirety,” he said. “You can’t take any chances for granted. You have to take the best chance for you and the opportunities you’re given. I think just going out there and playing with your heart and your spirit is huge.”

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