Tennessee Titans fans who watched the team in the late ’90s got a chance to see Josh Evans dominate opposing offensive linemen. And while he never made a Pro Bowl, the big-bodied defensive tackle earned plenty of respect as a quality NFL player who had no problem doing the dirty work in the trenches.
But on Friday, the Titans organization suffered a painful loss, as Evans tragically died at the age of 48.
While he may be gone, the former NFL defensive lineman will never be forgotten. Because based on the responses coming in from around the league, it’s clear that Josh Evans impacted many lives before his ended in such heartbreaking fashion.
Josh Evans enjoyed a lengthy NFL career
Despite being a four-year starter in college, Josh Evans did not get drafted out of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Still, that didn’t stop him from making his NFL dream come true.
The 6-foot-3, 280-pound defensive lineman signed with the Houston Oilers (who later became the Titans) and eventually developed into a key contributor for Jeff Fisher’s team.
By his fourth year in the league, the former undrafted free agent had locked down a starting spot. His physical presence and underrated athleticism made him difficult to block.
In 1999, Evans recorded 26 tackles and 3.5 sacks in 11 games (10 starts) for a 13-3 Titans squad that came agonizingly close to winning Super Bowl 34.
Although he missed the 2000 season due to a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy, the playmaking defensive lineman returned with a vengeance. In his final season in Tennessee, he totaled 53 tackles (12 for loss) and 5.5 sacks.
Evans then played 23 games for the New York Jets before retiring after the 2004 season.
In January 2020, Josh Evans got diagnosed with cancer in one of his kidneys. However, an expected two-hour surgery turned into a 13-hour ordeal that resulted in doctors removing his right kidney, part of his pancreas, and some of his small intestine.
The former NFL player spent a month in the hospital recovering before his health situation took a brutal turn.
According to a story on Evans’ battle with cancer published on the Titans’ official website, doctors found cancer in both his spine and liver, which required him to enter an Atlanta cancer treatment facility.
“I sometimes ask the doctors: Am I going to die?,” Evans said last summer. “And they obviously can’t answer that. They just say they are going to do the best they can, and I have to do the best I can. I don’t want to die.”
Evans received tremendous support from the Titans organization as his health continued to deteriorate. The team released a video in July 2020 that included positive messages from former teammates. An employee in Tennessee’s community relations department even started a GoFundMe page to raise money to help Evans and his family.
Tennessee Titans suffer painful loss with the former defensive lineman’s tragic death
On Friday, the Tennessee Titans suffered a painful loss, as Josh Evans passed away following his year-plus battle with cancer.
He would have turned 49 in September.
In the wake of Evans’ tragic death, Titans controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk released a statement paying tribute to a player who spent most of his NFL career with the franchise.
“I am so sad to hear that our Titans family lost Josh Evans today. His fight against cancer was one of courage and strength and his teammates were by his side encouraging him throughout that fight. We will remember his big personality and even bigger smile. We send our condolences to his family and friends in this difficult time,” her statement read.
Longtime NFL strength and conditioning coach John Lott, who got to know Evans during his time with the Jets, took to Twitter to send a heartfelt message following his passing.
“The Titans, Jets & the NFL community lost a teammate today. Josh Evans was a fierce competitor! He made everyone in the huddle accountable! Josh was a joy to coach! A man’s man! My thoughts & prayers go out to Josh’s family! RIP Josh @nyjets @Titans @NFL,” he wrote.
All statistics courtesy of Pro Football Reference.