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Archive for Monday, April 26, 1999

RAY EVANS DIES AT AGE OF 76

April 26, 1999

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In football, Ray Evans led the nation in pass completions in 1942, and in basketball, he was a four-time All-Big Six selection.

One of the greatest two-sport athletes in NCAA history, former Kansas University standout Ray Evans has died at the age of 76.

Evans, a Kansas City native who died at his home on Saturday night, holds the distinction of being an All-American at KU in both football and basketball. His accomplishments as a Jayhawk would fill a thick scrapbook.

  • Evans was a four-time All-Big Six selection in basketball in the 1940s. He played under coach Forrest C. "Phog" Allen, leading the Jayhawks to an NCAA Tournament appearance in 1942 and a 22-6 record and conference title in 1943 before joining the Air Force.

For his efforts, he was elected to the Helms Foundation Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971.

  • A member of the Orange Bowl and College Football Halls of Fame, Evans scored both touchdowns as a halfback in the 1948 Orange Bowl.

During the '42 season, Evans completed 101 of 198 passes, leading the country in completions.

"I always thought there were two categories of athletes at the University of Kansas -- one category was for him and one was for everybody else," former KU football coach Don Fambrough, an ex-teammate of Evans, said Sunday.

"I know you've heard the saying, 'He led by example.' It's been said a million times. Whoever said it the first time had Ray Evans in mind. When you look at two things -- Ray Evans as an athlete and man -- he is in a category by himself."

Fambrough, who was a football teammate of Evans in the Air Force, transferred from Texas to Kansas after the two friends completed their stints in the service. The duo played together at KU in 1946 and '47.

"He absolutely loved KU. It didn't matter if it was football, basketball or playing jacks in the middle of the street. If KU was out there, Ray Evans would give his support," Fambrough said. "Ray Evans is the reason I left Texas for KU."

Fambrough played guard on offense and linebacker on defense. As a lineman, he opened holes for Evans to pave through.

"I speak for all my teammates ... any time Ray was there we thought we had a chance to beat anybody," Fambrough said. "On the offensive line, I felt I tried to do my best every play. When his play was called, I did a little extra and the rest did too. You always knew he'd give 100 percent. You'd be embarrassed if you didn't."

Another multi-sport athlete, KU great Otto Schnellbacher recalls Evans as a loyal teammate:

"As an athlete he was a super athlete. As a teammate you couldn't ask for anything better. He gave his all at all times -- 100 percent," Schnellbacher said. "He was inclusive in his acceptance of all his ballplayers.

"He was a much greater football player than basketball player, but as a basketball player he was no 'ham and egger'," Schnellbacher added. "He was a great guard, a great defensive player and good rebounder. He was tough. I loved the guy."

Frank Pattee, a football teammate of Evans, played in the same backfield.

"He was a great football player, a dandy individual and good friend," Pattee said Sunday. "He threw well, ran well and blocked well."

Floyd Temple, who played baseball and football, and worked in KU's athletics department for 40 years, 27 as baseball coach, said: "When you talk about a KU athlete, Ray Evans is the first who comes to mind.

"Ray epitomizes what you think of a great Kansas athlete. Not only what he did in school, but the way he conducted himself in his life after athletics was tremendous."

Evans, who played one year for the Pittsburgh Steelers, worked at Traders National Bank in Kansas City, where he served as president until he retired in 1975. He was instrumental in bringing the Kansas City Chiefs to KC and served as first president of the Chiefs club. He also was a member of the Kansas State Board of Regents for 12 years and president of KU's Alumni Association.

"Never have I been around him when he wasn't excited and happy. I never heard him say a bad thing about anybody," Temple said. "He's what I wish I could be like. He was something. To lose a guy like Ray Evans it's a shock and a shame. His memory will live on."

His memory lives in football and basketball. KU's football players practice on the "Ray Evans Field" in Anschutz Pavilion. Meanwhile, Evans' basketball jersey No. 15 hangs in the rafters of Allen Fieldhouse.

His jersey number was retired in a ceremony at the halftime of the KU-K-State basketball game on Feb. 22, 1997.

"He was always humble, modest, almost embarrassed by the recognition," KU athletics director Bob Frederick said. "He was thrilled about it. It meant a lot to him.

"Ray Evans was a marvelous person," Frederick added. "He was an All-American in two sports but he was an all-world gentleman. There couldn't be a greater person."

At the time, Evans said he was indeed honored by the retirement of his basketball jersey to go with his football number 42, which had been retired in 1947.

"This has to be something everybody dreams of," Evans said back in 1997. "A lot of great players are qualified. It has to go down as one of the greatest honors you could ever hope to achieve.

"When I go to the games," Evans quipped, "I always look to the right and see the 'Beware of the Phog' banner. Now I'll have to look to the left, also."

A little-known fact about Evans is he was a standout in softball, too.

"He was so dang fast. I remember seeing him out there as a blur," Fambrough said. "He was so fast and strong he could do it all."

"I played softball with him in the city league in the 40s," Pattee noted. He was an excellent pitcher. We had a lot of good times and went through a lot of experiences."

Fambrough coached Ray's son, Ray Darby Evans, a former KU defensive back.

"One of the real thrills I had as a coach was having the thrill of coaching his son. Ray Jr.," Fambrough said. "He was on my team that went to the Hall of Fame Bowl (in 1981)."

-- Gary Bedore's phone number is 832-7186. His e-mail address is gbedore@ljworld.com

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