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Illinois athletics Hall of Fame: Aja Evans



Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame
Sep 25, 2017; Park City, UT, USA; Team USA bobsled hopeful Aja Evans during the 2018 U.S. Olympic Team media summit at the Grand Summit Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Illinois Hall of Fame inducts Aja Evans.

This series of articles features athletes who will be inducted into the Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame in September.

The University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics named 12 new members to the UI Athletics Hall of Fame Class of 2023, including athletes and coaches from nine teams. This is the seventh Hall of Fame class. It includes two Olympic medalists, members of their sport’s national hall of fame, national champions, high professional draft picks, a Super Bowl champion, and a national record holder for more than 70 years.

This installment of features Illinois track and field legend Aja Evans. 

Athletics is in her blood.

When you hear the phrase, “It’s in the genes,” a picture of Aja Evans should be next to it. The former Illinois track and field star was born into quite an athletic family. Her father, Fred Evans, Sr., was the first black national collegiate swimming champion at Chicago State. Fred, Jr., her brother, is a defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings.

Her uncle and cousin are Gary Matthews and Gary Matthews, Jr., former Major League Baseball players. Evans forged her own path all the way to the 2014 Winter Olympics.

Evans began her journey to Sochi on the South Side of Chicago at Morgan Park High School, where she stood out in track and field. Before coming to Illinois, Evans began her collegiate career at UNLV. Evans would transfer to Illinois and become one of the best shot-putters in the Big Ten.

When Evans’ collegiate career was over, she’d be a five-time All-American and three-time Big Ten Champion in the shot put. Evans began competing in the bobsled soon after graduation and earned a Bronze medal in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

“I’m a product of Chicago,” said Evans. “Showing people that this black girl from Chicago came to the Winter Olympic sport and did some amazing things, and it was all because I had that will to win, and it was my dream.”

Evans joins former Illini legends like Kenny Battle in the Hall of Fame this fall.

Armchair Illini is a comprehensive site dedicated to covering University of Illinois Athletics owned and operated by Alex Kyi. Dante Pryor has been writing about College Football for years on Saturday Blitz and is now the Lead Football Author for Armchair Illini.