(Editor’s note: PRCA media release)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – The worlds of both rodeo and sports in general lost a legend on Monday when Dr. J. Pat Evans passed away at age 88.
One of the founders of Justin Sportsmedicine Program, Evans was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2004. Evans is survived by sons, Kirk and Mike.
The Justin Sportsmedicine program was initiated at the 1980 National Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City and Evans, along with Don Andrews, was a driving force.
Before Evans envisioned the Justin Sportsmedicine, program and worked to get it started, there wasn’t anything organized for providing medical care to rodeo athletes. In 1981, the Justin Boots Company became the only sponsor the program has known in its years of service.
“Justin Sportsmedicine was my dream,” Evans told 1978 PRCA World Champion Bull Rider Butch Kirby one time in conversation. “He was like a father to all of us. Cowboys used to go to Forest Lane in Dallas to see Dr. J. Pat so they could get fixed up. When he fixed cowboys and we won, he won also.”
ProRodeo Hall of Fame bull rider Donnie Gay knows Evans is irreplaceable.
“The world is a better place because he was here,” Gay said.
Rick Foster, who is the program director for the Justin Sportsmedicine team, was glad to have known Dr. J. Pat.
“He was mentor for all of us, and great educator of rodeo sports medicine, and the best professional friend anyone could have,” Foster said.
And, Evans loved treating cowboys.
“The cowboys are the toughest guys on the planet,” Evans said through Dee Chambless, a family friend prior to his passing.
The reach of Evans’ influence in sports medicine is far and wide, and especially on Dr. Tandy Freeman, the Medical Director of the Justin Sportsmedicine team.
“To begin with, he (J. Pat) was one of my mentors,” Freeman said. “He is one of the people who has had a profound impact on my life. I wouldn’t be where I am, doing what I’m doing, if it hadn’t been for J. Pat. When I first met Dr. Evans, I was a resident in training, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to do. I was doing an orthopedic surgery residency, but I hadn’t decided what area I wanted to focus my attention on whether it was going to be sports medicine, double-joint replacement or something else.
“The thing about J. Pat that was the most influential on me was witnessing the relationships he had with his patients. How he talked to them and took care of them. It was a really personal form of medicine, nowadays it would be considered old-fashion. He helped me determine how I wanted to go about dealing with patients and taking care of patients.”
Then, Freeman made the choice to practice what Evans did.
“I decided I wanted to do sports medicine and then one day he called me up and said he was getting ready to retire and he wanted to know if I was interested in taking care of his old patients,” Freeman said. “That had huge implications because he was really talking about the rodeo athletes he had taken care of over the years. Long before that, even while I was still a resident, we got to be friends and he’s somebody that I love and care about. He was a role mode not just for me, but lots of people. The Justin Sportsmedicine torch is still his, I’m just holding it to pass it on to the next person. J. Pat was the medical director emeritus. As long as he was able to do it, he was still the guy whose opinion counted the most.”
In addition to rodeo athletes, Evans was one of the team doctors for the Dallas Cowboys from 1970-89, and a team doctor for the Dallas Mavericks from 1980-92.
Evans also was responsible for suggesting and promoting the development of the Tom Landry Sports Medicine and Research Center, which opened in 1990 in Dallas. Even today, it is one of the best sports medicine facilities in the world.
“He had a lot of famous athletes that he took care of and was friends with,” Freeman said. “With the (Dallas) Cowboys there are guys he took care of who were arguably among the best ever that played the game and yet, he cared for the broken down, weekend circuit cowboys just the same as he would for a guy who was a hall of famer in the NFL. To him, there was no difference in terms of the attention that they got and the care they needed.”
Evans is believed to be one of the first people in Dallas to develop a sports medicine practice. His practice was called Sports Medicine Clinic of North Texas.
“He was one of the pioneers in terms of developing sports medicine as an area of specialization,” Freeman said. “Focusing on athletes and athletic people and approaching their care from the standpoint of getting them back to their athletic activities. His impact is more than just in the rodeo world. I met J. Pat when I was a resident in training, and I can tell you there are a couple hundred or more guys who are practicing orthopedic surgery today who J. Pat influenced.”
It was through his work with the Dallas Cowboys that Evans was introduced to world of rodeo through Cowboys running back Walt Garrison, who also competed on the rodeo trail in the offseason. Garrison was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2018.
“The first rodeo cowboy I think he (J. Pat) operated on was my brother (bull rider) Pete (Gay) in 1974,” Donnie Gay said. “Pete tore his knee up and my dad (Neal) was trying to find a good surgeon. He talked to Walt (Garrison) and he got J. Pat to look at him and it started a good friendship. He was a great friend and a great man. J. Pat liked the mentality of the cowboys and he saw that we didn’t mind paying for it as long as we were going to get what we were paying for and finally we had a surgeon catering to cowboys who knew what he was doing.”
Donnie Gay, an eight-time PRCA world champion, said Evans operated on him four times.
“The cowboys of today are reaping the benefits that J. Pat started,” Donnie Gay said. “The first Justin treatment room was the bull riders’ locker room at the 1976 NFR in Oklahoma City. Don (Andrews) was there with a bag of tape and Dr. Evans had medicine and they set up shop. Everybody was making fun of us being little sissy bull riders having to bring their team to the rodeo until Roy Duvall, the big steer wrestler, tore his knee up the first night and he was in the locker room after the rodeo that night and Dr. Evans worked his magic on his knee and he won the go-round the next night.
“By the fourth performance, the bull riders couldn’t hardly get in their own locker room. It morphed from there, and the PRCA and Justin brands hit a home run on that one (forming the Justin Sportsmedicine team). It was a great fit and it still is.”
Joe Beaver, a three-time PRCA All-around World Champion, and five-time Tie-down Roping World Champion, appreciated Dr. Evans.
“He was rough, gruff, tough doctor, but he was very caring and very sincere,” said Beaver, who was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in 2000. “He started something that has really been a benefit to the rodeo world and the cowboy individual.”
Tom Feller, the director of event marketing for Justin Brands, concurred with Beaver.
“Because of him they introduced what is arguably the greatest program to ever hit the sport (of rodeo),” Feller said. “I have had my (PRCA) card since 1974, so I rodeoed before it (Justin Sportsmedicine) came along and after and there’s no question there’s no greater program that touched the sport and had a great impact on the individuals in the sport.”