When a recruiter stopped by to talk to his son, Roderick Evans was the one sold on the military. A home health care specialist in Detroit, Mich., Evans had a passion for helping others and a desire to make a difference. A military medical career sounded like a perfect fit.
The recruiter, on the other hand, saw a different picture. He took one look at Evans and said, Youre just too big.
At 5 feet, 7 inches and 418 pounds, Evans could hardly disagree.
But instead of easing the rejection with his usual overdose of comfort foods, the self-proclaimed Snickerholic went on a crusade. Fueled by sheer willpower and a determination to join the military, the 36-year-old finally conquered a lifelong battle with his weight. Three years and 230 pounds lighter, Evans again saw a recruiter. This time, he was met with a much different reception.
He had me come down to his office for a (fitness) test, said Evans, now 39 years old and a svelte 165 pounds. I passed with flying colors and signed up for the Reserves on the spot.
As a 91W combat medic student at the Army Medical Department Center and School, Evans now serves as a motivator for his fellow Soldiers, a role he never anticipated when growing up on the streets of Detroit.
It was rough, Evans said. You had to either be the big guy so no one messed with you or you had to know how to fight. I was the big guy.
Evans mother, a single mother of four, worked at two jobs to keep a roof over their heads. Evans became papa at home, cooking and cleaning for his siblings.
As a teen, his size was an advantage in football. That and his passion for the marching band kept him fairly fit and out of trouble, he said. He continued with both in college at Grambling University, La., then signed on as a trombone instructor and vocal teacher at his alma mater. Evans taught there for 14 years.
Over the years, a love of sweets turned the 260-pound teen into a 418-pound man.
When his brother became sick, Evans and his wife, La Tanya, moved back to Michigan to help with his brothers three children. Evans took a job as a sales manager at a clothing store and a night job in home health care.
Despite his weight, Evans was healthy but frustrated by his physical condition. At 36, I couldnt walk from the couch to the door without sitting down, he said. But I didnt want to push back from the table.
Although he worked in a clothing store, his own shopping trips were a dreaded nightmare. When he went shopping, he didnt ask the salesman to show him where the jeans were or for a style tip, he asked for the largest size in the store. Sometimes even the largest size wouldnt fit.
Thats when my wife would turn to me and just say, It will be OK, Evans said. She knew how bad I felt.
But it wasnt until the recruiter walked in that Evans pushed his plate away. He got up from the couch and started walking, then running. With smaller portions and a steady diet of gym trips, the weight flew off.
I never lost sight of my goal (joining the Army), Evans said. Even at 418 pounds I never gave up. Thats just who I am.