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42 Days Until Kansas Football: Remembering Ray Evans

Evans’ #42 jersey is one of three retired by the Kansas football program.

LSU v Florida Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Much like Gale Sayers, much has been written about Ray Evans, including here at RCT. While likely not as well known as Sayers, Evans was KU’s first truly great, nationally recognized athlete.

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. - Don Fambrough, LJW

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any cool recruiting stories about Evans. He was a standout athlete at Wyandotte High School in Kansas City, KS prior to making his way to Lawrence for college.

Evans was an overall athlete who started on offense and defense, at quarterback and cornerback, for the Jayhawks. Along with Otto Schnellbacher, he was KU’s first-ever first team All-American in 1947 and a huge part of leading the Jayhawks to the 1948 Orange Bowl.

Evans led the nation in pass yards (as a QB) and interceptions (as a CB) in 1942, making him (still) the only player in NCAA history ever to do so. He is the only Jayhawk to be first team All-American in both football (1947) and basketball (1943). He was a three-time first team All-Conference (Big Six) selection (1942, ‘46-’47) in football. He is still tops at KU for single season and career interceptions as a defensive back.

Evans also ran track and played baseball at KU for one season, in 1942.

He is the only athlete in KU history to have both his football number (42) and basketball number (15) retired. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1964. Evans went on to play both professional football (drafted 9th in the first round) and basketball and was even offered a baseball contract by the New York Yankees.

Every year, Kansas football coaches present one of their players with the Ray Evans Defensive Player of the Year award at the end of season team banquet.