Evan Sims doesn’t remember quite how it all happened. The Boulder senior keeper watched video of the night he was knocked unconscious in the goal box, breaking several bones in face.
Brutal. And for a while, he thought it would be the lasting image of his soccer career.
But even as his high school playing days ended in the fall, bruised-face from the sidelines, his comeback to the game winked with an unexpected Division-I offer. Initially, a Cornell (Ivy League) commit due to his out-of-the-box smarts, Sims became a Big Red soccer signee because of his play in it.
“I planned on going to Cornell without playing any soccer,” said Sims, who committed to the school for academics in December. “Then right around January or February I got an email from the Coach, which was in response to a recruiting questionnaire from years before. And they basically said they needed another goalkeeper in this recruiting class, and they were asking who is already in Cornell, or applied to Cornell, for a keeper to add.”
Sims responded. He sent in his film and impressed at a late-April camp, where he showcased his talents to the coaching staff. The following week, he was offered a spot on the team.
“He called me up and was like ‘Coach, I’d kept this to myself, but I want to let you know that I just came back from Cornell and I’m going to be playing soccer at Cornell University,'” Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher said. “We’re all going to be cheering, tuning in, and watching games online. And suddenly my social media feed is going to be filled with Cornell athletics now.”
As a player, Sims weighs a slight 150 pounds. He said he’s 5-foot-11 ½ but usually rounds it up to an even 6-foot. Though, he plays much bigger.
While holding a high school GPA north of 4.6 he had been a large reason for the Panthers’ soccer success over the past two seasons, with the team reaching the quarterfinals in the pandemic spring season last year before notching the top seed in the 5A playoffs in the fall.
After both, he was voted the team’s most valuable player amid a roster stacked with next-level talent. He was twice a first teamer in the Front Range League and honorable mention state selection for CHSAA.
“When Evan tragically got injured towards the end of the season the team really felt that,” Kalisher said, emotionally recalling a scene that required an ambulance for Sims who was knocked out in a mid-October game against Broomfield. “And at the same time, they really rallied together to play in part for Evan. And the fact that Evan, as soon as he could, came out of the hospital after a broken face and concussion and stood on the sideline, the team really rallied and responded to him and wanted to play the best for him.”
Kalisher said Sims has long secured his place among a strong lineage of keepers at Boulder. He — graciously, the coach stressed — replaced two-year starter Toby Bateman, who’d helped lead the Panthers to two straight semifinal appearances in 2018 and ’19.
That was after Miguel Alaniz, who went on to play at Colorado Mesa, and Murray Smith, who Kalisher remembered slowing down Fairview and MLS great Shane O’Neill in a state quarterfinals win in 2010.
Kalisher said Sims is also up there with other all-state goalies in Henry Huettel, a 5A champion in 2012, and Djibril Doumbia, who went through the likes of Legacy’s Tajon Buchanan (now a member of Team Canada for the World Cup) and the powerhouse program from Broomfield as the backstop to the Panthers’ perfect 2016 season.
“Evan is absolutely in that mix,” Kalisher said. “In his top games, I remember playing Fossil Ridge one game and Henry Huettel came up and said, ‘I saw the highlights and that was one of the best games ever’. Our goalies have all been supporting each other, and I know Evan will do the same.”
In getting back on the field, Sims got his feel of the game back while taking part in practice with his former club team. Over the past months, he also trained with his Boulder teammates and his three younger brothers.
All of it was enough to prepare him for his ID camp two months ago, where he impressed the Big Red coaches and landed an offer just days later.
“The head coach called me and told me they liked what they saw,” Sims said. “And if I truly wanted to commit myself to the rigors of soccer and all that stuff, they’d offer me a spot. So, it was good.”
Sims said he is majoring in Environment and Sustainability. He will join a soccer program that went 11-3-2 last fall, the Big Red’s third straight winning season under coach John Smith.