Evanshen TV movie inspires

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

Some stories are worth revisiting. Some are even worth making a movie about.

The story of former CFL star Terry Evanshen is one of those.

Imagine waking up one day and not remembering a thing about your life.

You have no idea what you did for a living, or where or how you lived. Everybody you see, including people claiming to be your spouse and kids, are complete strangers to you.

He had to relearn everything: how to walk, talk, drive, tie his shoes, even how to go to the bathroom.

That's how it was for Evanshen after a car accident 17 years ago.

Then 44, he didn't remember catching even one of the 600 passes he hauled down during his Hall of Fame career.

Heck, he couldn't remember how to catch at all -- the first time one of his daughters tossed him the football, he dropped it.

I first talked to Evanshen in 2001, when a documentary about his life was about to air on the CTV show, W-5.

Now that his inspiring story has been turned into a full-length TV movie, The Man Who Lost Himself (which will air on CTV on Tuesday, Nov. 15), this seemed a good time to check in with him again.

Brought him to tears

"It's absolutely terrific," Evanshen, reached on his farm near Brooklin, Ont., yesterday, said of the movie.

In fact, he says watching it brought him to tears, partly because the movie depicts his youngest daughter, Jennifer, who died of inoperable brain cancer shortly after the airing of the documentary. She was in her twenties.

"I get a lot of inspiration just from the courage she had," Evanshen said. "This definitely brings the memory front and centre."

As much inspiration as Evanshen gets from that tragedy, he hands out a fair amount through his own, as a motivational speaker.

"In my first life I entertained the people," Evanshen said. "Now, I entertain the possibilities in people. I try to get them to look within themselves and be the best they can be. Don't worry about the future. It's right now.

"I'm reaching out and touching people. It's a pretty good feeling."

Relearning who he is has been a gradual process for Evanshen, from the first five years after the accident, when he was basically a recluse, to the man of today: the out-going, confident guy who once did colour commentary on CFL TV broadcasts.

Doctors predicted he'd rediscover his character, and they were right.

Though he continues to suffer from retrograde amnesia and short-term memory loss, which forces him to use cue cards for his speeches, he's noticed a difference in his public speaking, even in the last few years.

"I'm not always anxious about saying and doing the right things," Evanshen said. "I don't question myself anymore. I'm much more at peace with myself."

Tonight, he'll even attend a CFL game again, accepting TSN's invitation to appear on the Montreal-Hamilton broadcast.

Going to games is something Evanshen's been reluctant to do since the accident, mainly because he feels self-conscious about his emotional reaction to the play.

Obviously, the fierce competitor in him didn't die that day in 1988, either.

That's one thing Evanshen doesn't need to do to complete the process of finding himself again: watch tapes of the career that made him the CFL's rookie of the year in 1965 and a two-time winner of the Schenley Award as top Canadian.

"I don't need to be reminded of that," he said. "Knowing the character I have today, I always did my best."

As for the movie, Evanshen says it has a happy ending.

But we already knew that, didn't we?


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