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Know Your KU History: Ray Evans

With football and basketball season overlapping, we at Know Your KU History have decided to spotlight another superstar two sport athlete: Ray Evans.

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Wyandotte High School product Ray Evans may be the most decorated athlete in the history of the University of Kansas. Evans holds many distinctions that separate him from all the other athletes that have played at Kansas. Let’s examine each of these one at a time as they are quite remarkable.

A Multi-Sport Athlete

Like many of his generation, Ray Evans played and excelled at more than one sport. Ray’s sports of choice were basketball and football which were perfect fits at KU as the basketball team was one of the country’s finest and its coach, Phog Allen wanted his players playing football in the off season. He played football in 1942 and 1943, took time off for the military just like his esteemed teammate Otto Schellbacher, and returned to the gridiron in 1947. In basketball, he did the same but got a few games under his belt in 1946-47 season while suiting up for the entire 47-48 campaign.

On the Gridiron

As was the style at the time, players played on both sides of the ball. Evans was the team’s quarterback and one of its defensive backs. In 1942, Evans passed for 1,117 yards and led the nation in passing yards but that wasn’t his best season in Jayhawk blue.

Upon his return from the military, Evans had a season for the ages in 1947. He threw and ran for a total of 1,018 yards and led the Jayhawks to the Orange Bowl. On defense that season, he grabbed 10 interceptions which led the nation. He was appropriately named to the All-American team after that 1947 season.

Evans was drafted by the New York Knicks and the Chicago Bears in 1944. But because of the war and his return to Kansas, he wound up playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1948. He finished that season with 426 total yards receiving and rushing. He scored two touchdowns that season, his only season as a professional athlete.

On the Basketball Court

Evans was a great basketball player as well. As a combo guard he averaged 6.4 points over 80 games for KU. He was good enough in 1942-43 and 1943-44 to be named to the All-Big 6 team and the All-American team. And although he played on some great teams (that 43-44 team went undefeated in the Big 6), he never played in a Final Four at Kansas.

He is still the only player in Kansas history to be an All-American in basketball and football. If you go to a game at Memorial Stadium, you will see his name in the Ring of Honor, and as you glance to the rafters at Allen Fieldhouse where the retired jerseys hang, you’ll also see Evans’ number 15. He’s the only athlete in KU history to be enshrined in both places, and he will probably be the only one to ever hold that honor.