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Second lives with Terry Evanshen


Canadian football great Terry Evanshen loves throwing a softball during his second chance at life.

The football Hall of Famer donned a jersey and ball cap for a celebrity slow pitch game and Tim Horton’s fundraiser at Red Deer’s Great Chief Park on Friday night.

“We have the privilege of travelling through Western Canada, especially when I’ve had a lot of great years here,” said Evanshen, just as a thunderstorm threatened to cancel the game. “It’s great when the fans supported me in my first life and are doing it again in my second life.”

Evanshen and the rest of the Pro Footballers team, which included Herm Harrison and Willie Pless, beat local Media All Stars team 12-5.

The youthful-looking 64-year-old is known as one of Canada’s greatest receivers. By the time he retired in 1978, he had made 600 career receptions, nearly 10,000 receiving yard, numerous all-star appointments and two Grey Cup championships.

On July 4, 1988, Evanshen’s life took a dramatic turn.

A van ran a red light and struck his Jeep on his way home from work.

Evanshen was ripped out of his seat-belt and was hurtled through the air before landing on the pavement. He nearly died.

“It seems like yesterday,” said Evanshen.

“My brain has been able to become more quiet, and knowing now I can speak intelligently to people.”

Evanshen suffers from retrograde amnesia and short-term memory loss as a result of the crash. He lost all memories of his first 44 years of life.

Evanshen also had to retrain himself how to do the simplest of tasks.

But thankfully, he says, he had his loving wife Lorraine and children to support him.

“I’ve been married for 42 years. She had to put up with a very unstable guy for a long time.

“I was able to rehabilitate at home in quiet surroundings, which probably saved me from going to an institution.”

About eight years after the crash, Evanshen felt like he could contribute again in society.

He became a motivational speaker and now speaks to crowds all over.

Evanshen shares how he restructures his life every day.

“I take one day at a time, one moment at a time, and I do the best I can for that moment.”

He also encourages those with brain injuries to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.

“Once I started inching forward, the fog started to clear a little bit,” Evanshen said.

He feels more comfortable and confident nowadays. He tells his wife and children he loves them every day.

His oldest daughter is 37, and the second daughter is 32. Jennifer, the youngest, would have been 30.

“She died of inoperable brain cancer on Oct. 26, 2001,” Evanshen said. “I remember (that day) because I talk to her every single day. She inspired me so much.”

He and Lorraine have a horse ranch in Brooklin, Ont., about an hour northeast of Toronto.

“It’s important for me to maintain a good physical state, so I work out every two or three hours every day,” Evanshen added.

Evanshen is also good at making lists, which helps him get “into a rhythm.”

A movie and a book chronicled his story. David James Elliott, star of the television series Jag, played Evanshen.

The movie has since aired in 23 countries.

“It’s not a football story,” Evanshen said. “It’s a story about life, survival and love is the common denominator.”

Contact Laura Tester at ltester@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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