A Sense of History

In all my travels connected to the Green Bay Packers I was devoted to contacting as many of the players & coaches from the “old” days as possible and although many had died I was fortunate to hit on some real gems like Lon Evans, Tony Canadeo, Don Hutson and “Swede” Johnstone, not forgetting the stories and memories of Art Daley and Packer historian Lee Remmel.

I had read of an outstanding offensive lineman called Lon Evans and true to form I wrote a letter to an address in Fort Worth.  Evans was born in Fort Worth, Texas on Christmas Day 1911 and attended Polytechnic High School. He then played at Texas Christian University for coach Francis Schmidt.  I could write a whole article on Coach Schmidt who was very much like an early Lombardi, profane and tough but underneath that “veneer” was a kind man.  As a senior in 1932, Evans helped the TCU Horned Frogs to a Southwest Conference championship.  He was a professional American football player who played offensive lineman for five seasons for the Green Bay Packers in the National Football League and was inducted into the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame in 1978.  Following his NFL career, Evans became sheriff of Tarrant County, Texas.  Nicknamed "Purple Lawman", he held the county's top law enforcement job from 1960 until his retirement in 1984.  Lon died on December 11th 1992.

These are the bare facts of a man’s life but they do not tell the fascinating story of how this young man from Texas became a star for the Green Bay Packers of the 1930s.  Early in 1993 I received a lovely letter from Marion Evans telling me how much Lon and the Evans family appreciated the contact I had made.  Because, unknown to me, Lon was in hospital in a serious condition.  He had suffered a leg amputation many years before and I think he then lost the other leg but Marion said he would show and read out my letter to all his visitors, including the doctors and nurses and even the minister who was a regular caller.  Lon could never get over the fact that thousands of miles away across the Atlantic were football fans who knew all about this Texas kid and wanted to induct him into their Hall of Fame.

In her letter Marion invited Margaret and me to visit her in Fort Worth and we duly accepted her kind invitation and after flying in from South Carolina we had a wonderful party at the Evans house.  A house full of Dallas Cowboy fans and just three Green Bay Packers, Marion, Margaret and me.  I don’t think they ever got over the “Ice Bowl”.

Lon vividly remembered his first meeting with Vince Lombardi when the legendary Green Bay coach was playing guard for Jim Crowley, one of the famed “Four Horsemen” of Notre Dame, at Fordham.  “We’d work out at Fordham when we were in New York to play the Giants and Lombardi would come to me to ask questions about how to play guard and years later Vince still remembered those days when I would travel to Green Bay for a reunion”.

Before Lon died he dedicated his book to me and also the family gave me another copy to pass on to Ray Nitschke who knew Lon well and had sent his best wishes to the family at the time of Lon’s passing.

Lon’s dedication

The Evans family “hunting party” photographed in 1914 with left to right, Mary Evans, Ruth Evans, Lon Evans junior and Lon Evans senior smoking the cigar.  They had stopped next to this car just for a novelty photograph.

Having been a professional football player in the NFL and then an official in both the Southwest Conference and NFL for 28 years and finally as sheriff of Tarrant County, Texas for 24 years Lon Evans had a huge catalogue of memories which I hope to share with you over the coming months - a special man.

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