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Former Gonzaga Prep star and Arizona Cardinals rookie Evan Weaver heads into training camp

UPDATED: Wed., Aug. 5, 2020

It’s an anecdote former Gonzaga Prep linebacker Evan Weaver has repeated since he was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in April, but it resonated as he signed his rookie contract.

Weaver recently sat in an office at Cardinals headquarters as he spoke to owner Michael Bidwill through a laptop placed near a fancy, still-in-the-box Cardinals pen and sheet of paper, evoking a memory from Weaver’s childhood.

“I told my first grade teacher I didn’t need to learn how to read because I was going to the NFL,” Weaver told Bidwell, as seen on the Cardinals’ social media accounts last week. “Then my teacher said ‘Well, how are you going to read your NFL contract?’”

He trusted his mother, Christine Weaver, to scan the legalese.

“My mom’s a lawyer,” Weaver told his teacher. “But thankfully I learned how to read.”

Bidwill laughed.

“I’m sure those Jesuits up at Gonzaga Prep would have (made sure you read),” Bidwill said.

Weaver, who begins training camp this week, went on to sign the rookie four-year contract worth up to $3.4 million with a $167,000 signing bonus.

Now the sixth-round draft pick aims to make the Cardinals’ 53-man roster.

Weaver (6-foot-2, 235 pounds) starred at California. He was the 2019 Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, a first-team All-American and led the nation in tackles as a junior (159) and senior (182), setting a conference record last season.

He led Gonzaga Prep to a State 4A title in 2015 and was the Washington Defensive Player of the Year.

Weaver may have been the best tackler with the best defensive instincts in college football last season, but NFL scouts were reportedly concerned about his limited athleticism and coverage ability, resulting in the late-round pick.

Bidwill appears to have faith in Weaver, comparing Weaver to a Cardinals legend whose statue is at nearby Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium.

“You remind me of a guy we have a lot of respect for, and that’s Pat Tillman,” Bidwill told Weaver. “He was a linebacker at Arizona State and was a tackling machine and a terrific, multi-sport athlete and would stick his nose in there.

“That’s probably about one of the highest compliments you can get.”

Tillman was a seventh-round draft pick in 1998 out of Arizona State who went on to play 60 games with Cardinals, totaling 340 tackles, 15 pass deflections, three interceptions and three forced fumbles.

Tillman famously turned down a three-year contract with the Cardinals in 2002 to become an Army Ranger, months after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York.

He was shot and killed in Afghanistan in 2004 at age 27.

“I’m not him,” Weaver said. “But nobody really can be.”

If Weaver avoids the practice squad in his rookie season, multiple Cardinals pundits believe it will be what Weaver can do on special teams.

One of the Pac-12’s all-time great linebackers, Weaver has been following the recent #WeAreUnited stance taken by over 400 current Pac-12 athletes seeking reform by the league amid a global pandemic, making several demands with many health-related concerns.

Weaver supports the movement.

“Great to see these PAC 12 athletes take a stand!” he tweeted. “Ridiculous they have to ask for these things! #WeAreUnited”

Spokane to the NFL: The Lilac City has produced several NFL players over the last four decades, but the 2010s have seen quite a few former Greater Spokane League stars on NFL roster.

Weaver (Gonzaga Prep), Detroit Lions offensive lineman Joe Dahl (University High/Washington State), Denver Broncos quarterback Brett Rypien (Shadle Park/Boise State) and offensive lineman Jake Rodgers (Shadle Park/Eastern Washington) are in NFL training camps.

Other Spokane products recently in the NFL include special teams enforcer Bryan Braman (Shadle Park), who won a Super Bowl with the Philadelphia Eagles in 2018; kicker and punter Austin Rehkow (Central Valley/Idaho) had brief stints with the Bills and Giants; former Tennessee Titans and Minnesota Vikings running back Bishop Sankey (Gonzaga Prep/Washington) and former Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens and San Francisco 49ers defensive back Will Davis (Central Valley).

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