Because almost everyone seems to be "born again" these days, from presidential candidates to hard-nosed former White House hatchetmen, no one should be surprised to find a born-again offensive lineman. He's Norm Evans, once of the Miami Dolphins, now a Seattle Seahawk, and he writes about both evangelical religion and football in On the Line (Revell, $5.95), with the assistance of Edwin Pope—who is, miracle of miracles, a born-again sportswriter.
The book is being promoted in large measure as an expression of faith, and deserves to be respectfully received as such. Evans is not a theologian—his views on the divinely ordained domination of women by men strike me as antediluvian—but he is a person of impressive decency and sincerity; beyond that, his genuine modesty and his eagerness to fulfill himself spiritually as well as financially are well-nigh astonishing in this age of inflated athletic egos.
For all his obvious virtues, Evans is no goody-goody, and in fact it is his forthright account of the Dolphins' 1975 season that makes the book of real interest to sports fans. There are no swear words here—but there's plenty of unsentimental talk about the hardscrabble life of an offensive lineman and about what it's like to play under Don Shula, the most successful active coach in the game.
The 1975 season was a tough one for the Dolphins. They ran up a 10-4 record, which kept them out of the playoffs for the first time since Shula took over in 1970. Still, Evans' account suggests that Shula may have done his finest coaching job in '75, keeping the Dolphins near their accustomed level of excellence despite the celebrated World Football League defections and a plague of major injuries. Wisely, Evans and Pope have chosen not to tell the story of that season in diary form, a device used so frequently in "inside" sports books that it has become a cliché. Instead, each chapter deals with a different aspect of football as Evans experiences it. The one that's likely to grip most readers is called "God Loves Me Too!" Evans talks about Carl Eller, Claude Humphrey, and other defensive linemen, and they in turn describe what it's like to play against Evans—it's hard.
A few months after the season ended, Shula gambled and put Evans, 34 years old, on the expansion list. He lost: Seattle drafted him. Evans took the news with characteristic good grace; now his book comes as a reminder of just how much the Dolphins lost.