Part of a long tradition of great Eagles' inside linebackers, Byron Evans, is unquestionably the most underrated Eagle at that position ever. Chuck Bednarik, Bill Bergey, Jeremiah Trotter and Stewart Bradley all deserve their high praise, but so does Evans so here it comes.
Byron should be known at least for his all-time great touchdown celebration, known as the "Beanie-Wiggle." If you have never seen him shake his stuff, click here.
More seriously, Evans was a key member of the vaunted "Gang Green Defense" of the late '80s and early '90s. It was the play of the defensive line that really stole the thunder. Guys like Reggie White, Jerome Brown and Clyde Simmons are some of the greatest to ever play their positions.
Seth Joyner and William Thomas were great linebackers in that era as well but Byron Evans locked down the middle linebacker position and is deserving of more credit than he received.
Evans embodied Eagles' football of that era and played his entire eight year career in Kelly Green, never earning a pro-bowl berth although he easily deserved a few.
His 184 tackles, three interceptions, and three fumble recoveries in 1989 seem pro-bowl caliber as does his 1992 production of 175 tackles and 4 interceptions. Plus, the guy was just fun to watch. He made great plays, had a nose for the ball and really anchored the linebackers on one of the greatest defenses in NFL history.
Evans did earn second team all-NFL honors in 1990 and 1992.
As his statistics indicate, Evans was a great tackler. Tommy Lawlor of Fan-demonium commented on his memory of Byron Evans which I thought really summed up the kind of player he was:
"The thing that pops in my mind with Evans is his long arms. I can always see him in his stance with his arms dangling ... He was an outstanding wrap-up tackler, but the arms also helped in pass defense. "
He was unquestionably a leader on the field and became the Eagles defensive signal caller in 1988 and the defensive captain the following season. Considering the defense he played for, those are pretty high accolades.
Evans told Jim Gehman of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, "To be named one of the captains, you had to trust the person and really believe in what they were doing. They believed that you were a leader and that made me feel real good."
One of the most challenging defensive systems in NFL history was Buddy Ryan's 46 Bear and Byron Evans was the master of the most dynamic role in the system which demonstrates his versatile athleticism and intelligence.
In a 2008 interview with Jim Gehman of PhiladelphiaEagles.com, Evans commented on Ryan's defensive system.
"It was very complicated, probably one of the most complex defenses of all time, but it wasn't intimidating. I think more than anything, I was surrounded by a good bunch of guys who were willing to go the extra mile and help me out and really give me the confidence boost that I needed. If I studied, I could make it happen."
His career was unfortunately cut short in a devastating injury that occurred during a tackle of the Cleveland Brown's bruising running back Leroy Hoard. Evans broke his leg and tore his MCL in one play. When Evans went down, it kind of felt like the end of an era to me.
For those who never experienced the gang green defense, I recall it as one of the most incredible things I can remember in Philadelphia sports history. In the middle of it all was another unsung Eagle, 6'2" and 235 pounds of Byron Evans, one of the all-time Philadelphia Eagles' great players.
More Analysis from Leo Pizzini at: http://eagles.sportsscribes.net.
Current features: Brian Westbrook, Jeremy Maclin, LeSean McCoy, Cornelius Ingram, Victor Harris, Brent Celek and Hank Baskett...next up...unsung Eagles from the Buddy Ryan/Rich Kotite era.