MONROE — On a hot day this past June, Evan Leggett and his Monroe High School football teammates were gathered on the field at the end of a spring practice.
In the distance, he saw smoke spreading throughout the surrounding valley.
“We (saw) smoke everywhere,” Leggett said. “I’m like, ‘Wow, that’s a big, big fire.’”
Moments later, he found out where it was coming from.
His mother, Rachel, was at the high school to pick him up from practice when she got a phone call from her husband.
She then immediately ran onto the field.
“Our house is on fire!” she yelled to Evan.
Rachel and Evan quickly made the short drive to their home, just off Old Snohomish Monroe Road. By the time they arrived, firefighters were there and the road was blocked.
Because it was such a hot and fast-moving fire, Rachel said, their house was considered fully involved in just three minutes.
“I went up to the house to see if everything was OK,” Evan said. “And by the time I got up there, the whole house was gone.”
Evan’s father, Edward, and twin brother, Ian, were inside when the fire started. They both escaped. So did three family dogs and two cats.
But their aging rescue dog, Chloe, died in the fire.
“That dog meant a lot to us,” Evan said.
The family lost almost all of their possessions in the fire. They had lived there for nearly five years.
“I watched the whole house burn in the yard for about an hour, just being like, ‘That’s everything I have,’” Evan said. “… (I lost) everything I owned, except for my cleats, my ball and my (football) gear.”
For Evan, it was football that provided a sense of normalcy through the traumatic experience.
“I feel like if I didn’t have football at that time, I would be in a different place by now,” he said.
Evan, a senior quarterback, showed up to practice the day after the fire. He hasn’t missed a practice since.
“We were shocked, obviously, that he was at practice the next day,” Monroe coach Scott Darrow said. “We just figured he was gonna be gone for a while. But I just think it was his place to get away … and just to feel normal again.”
This season, Evan has split the quarterbacking duties for the Bearcats. He’s set to start Friday night’s pivotal regular-season finale against Snohomish, according to Darrow.
“To go through all that, it’s unbelievable,” Darrow said. “I mean, imagine being a senior in high school and having to (experience) all that — losing all your clothes and your shoes and all those things that you possess. It’s just hard to imagine, man.
“He’s such a resilient kid, and (we’re) so proud of how he’s overcame everything.”
The Leggett family — Evan, Rachel, Edward, Ian and Evan’s sister, Dakota — moved into a hotel after the fire and lived there for nearly three months. They’ve since moved into a home in Lake Stevens.
Along the way, they’ve received a lot of help and support from the Monroe community.
Two former Monroe football parents organized a car wash to raise money for the family. About 50 Bearcats players volunteered at the car wash, Darrow said, and a steady stream of cars rolled through. Donations also flowed in through a pair of GoFundMe online fundraisers.
“We have an amazing community,” Rachel said. “… We all are so blessed to be here and to have been surrounded by such wonderful people and help and support.”
After spending his freshman and sophomore years at Snohomish High School, Evan transferred to Monroe. As a junior during this past spring’s abbreviated season, he was the Bearcats’ backup quarterback.
This season, Evan has started most of Monroe’s games at quarterback, while splitting snaps with sophomore Blake Springer. Evan has completed 65.3% of his passes for 616 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, he’s also showcased his dual-threat ability by rushing for 141 yards and two scores.
When not playing quarterback, Evan also plays cornerback and receiver.
“Evan’s just such a good athlete, it’s crazy,” Darrow said. “He’s such a hard worker and just a great kid. … He’s just such a great runner, such a huge arm (and) reads the defense so well.”
Evan has helped lead Monroe to a 4-3 overall record, including a 3-1 mark in Wesco 3A South play. If the Bearcats beat two-time defending league champion Snohomish on Friday night, Monroe likely will finish in a three-way tie with Snohomish and Edmonds-Woodway atop the Wesco 3A South.
“Great leader, humble kid,” Darrow said of Evan. “Him and his mom will make the linemen sandwiches after games and stuff like that. He’s got that servant heart that we appreciate so much. I can’t say enough good things about him.”
The Leggetts are still waiting to find out what caused the fire. Rachel said their home was an old farm-style house, with cedar paneling on the inside.
“The firemen said between the wood paneling and the outside, there was like no insulation at all,” she said. “It was just open air in between the walls, so that really helped feed the fire and let it take off.”
Reflecting on that life-altering day four months ago, Evan said the fire ultimately changed him and helped him grow.
“I feel like I’ve matured so much through this process,” he said.
Rachel echoed that sentiment.
“There’s a silver lining in everything, and I feel like (Evan) really changed a lot from it,” she said. “He’s had his obstacles in life, and I feel like he’s really risen through all of this.”
Evan said he doesn’t have any negative emotions about what happened. Instead of thinking about what was lost, he focuses on being grateful that his family is OK.
“You can’t take away what I love,” he said. “And I’ve still got what I love. And if you really think about it, at the end of the day, the (possessions) I had were just things. And I can replace those things. I can’t replace my loved ones.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he added. “That’s what I believe.”