Released by the Raiders after last season, Vince Evans thought his pro football career was over.
Golf is his passion, so he took a job managing a course in Arcadia. But the Raiders called, and Evans, at 35, is in training camp again.
"When they called this year I was totally surprised because I hadn't heard anything from them since they released me," Evans said. "I'd heard that they were looking at other quarterbacks, so I thought they were going to go with someone else.
"They defined my role as being a security guy. If anything would happen to Jay (Schroeder) or (Steve) Beuerlein, I'd be the guy they'd want to call on."
With Beuerlein not in camp because of a contract dispute, Evans has become Schroeder's backup at quarterback. But Evans will probably be cut, if the Raiders re-sign Beuerlein. So why does Evans continue to pursue his dream?
"There's something inside me that keeps driving me to work out as hard as I do and to continue to play because I really don't have to do that," Evans said. "But I'm compelled by some inward feeling to keep doing it. And sure enough here I am. I'm sure they could have signed some other quarterbacks."
Does Evans ever get discouraged?
"Oh yes, all the time," Evans said. "But I don't lose hope. There's something inside me that just doesn't say that it's over. And I'm not talking in an unrealistic way. I'm not hanging on and hanging on and trying to say that they've got to do this for me or that this is my last hurrah. I don't think it's a mistake that I'm here. So I'm thankful for the opportunity."
A player who comes to training camp with little hope of making the team is called a camp guy. Is Evans a camp guy?
"I don't know what camp guy means," Coach Art Shell said. "He has a viable chance of making this football team.
"Vince is doing fine. Vince has a lot of talent, and he's been doing quite well this camp. He understands the system, which makes it a lot easier for him, and he's been throwing the ball quite well."
Schroeder has been impressed, too.
"Vince looks good," Schroeder said. "Vince has got a very strong arm, and he's always in great shape. He can still play. He's a great guy to have around because he knows the system here and he can throw the football. Given the chance, he's going to do a good job for you. If you watch him throw, he throws with any of us."
Evans has been inconsistent in the Raiders' two exhibition games. He completed nine of 17 passes for 126 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in a 17-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints in London, and he completed two of five passes for 31 yards with no touchdowns and one interception in last week's 23-13 victory at San Francisco. The interception led to a touchdown.
Interceptions have plagued Evans throughout his pro career. He has thrown 57, contrasting to only 36 touchdown passes.
"I don't think (interceptions) are a knack that's just common to Vince Evans," Evans said. "If you look at any quarterback who's played the game long enough, he's going to do that. It's part of the game. I don't look at it like it's unique to me."
After being voted the most valuable player of the 1977 Rose Bowl for leading USC to a victory over Michigan, Evans was selected in the sixth round of the 1977 draft by the Chicago Bears.
Evans played in 62 games in seven seasons with the Bears, starting 32. Taking over as the Bears' starter for the final 10 games of the 1980 season, Evans led NFL quarterbacks by running for eight touchdowns. He had his best season in 1981, starting all 16 games and passing for 2,354 yards and 11 touchdowns, including three in a victory over the Raiders.
Evans then went to the United States Football League, signing a lucrative contract with the Chicago Blitz in 1984.
"From a financial standpoint, it was a good opportunity," Evans said. "I had reservations about leaving, but because of the way the contract was structured I decided to leave the Bears."
Evans threw for a career-high 2,624 yards and 14 touchdowns in 1984 and led USFL quarterbacks in touchdowns scored for two seasons.
After the USFL folded, he was out of football for three years.
He remembers having a vision about the Raiders while at church.
"I'll never forget this as long as I live," Evans said. "We were singing this hymn and I closed my eyes and I saw these people holding hands in the Coliseum before a capacity crowd.
"I was in a football uniform looking up to the people. I didn't see the silver and black, but I put two and two together because who else plays in the Coliseum? That's how I knew I was going to be in L.A."
It didn't work quite as well as he hoped. The Raiders signed him during the 1987 NFL Players Assn. strike, but since the strike ended, Evans has played in only one regular-season game.
He says his chances were not helped by the hiring of Mike Shanahan as coach in 1988.
"It seemed like when Shanahan came in he had his ideas of what he wanted, and I never really got an opportunity," Evans said. "So I've been on a seesaw. But I've never lost focus of my ability to get the job done."
Persistence has been the key to Evans' life.
Evans recalls that during his USC years he received an anonymous so-called fan letter that included a racial slur and said, "If you go out there today we're going to blow your brains out."
Said Evans: "It didn't stop me from going out and playing, but it made me think, 'What is it about my skin color that would make somebody want to shoot me?' And it just gave me another perspective into how evil and hateful people can be. You know that and deal with it, but you keep on kicking. You can't let it stop you.
"Don't let anyone tell you can't do something."
Evans has a new dream:
"My dream is to go to the Super Bowl and to win it and use it as a platform to go all around the world and tell people that they can make it. It's as simple as that.
"That's my dream. Whether it happens or not, I don't know. But I ain't giving up."
Running back Marcus Wilson, a sixth-round draft pick from Virginia, has been moved to strong safety. "We want to give him a chance to make our football team," Coach Art Shell said. A running back/defensive back in high school, Wilson played one game at defensive back in college. . . . Shell said that the Raiders have made little progress in contract negotiations with their five unsigned players: quarterback Steve Beuerlein, fullback Steve Smith, defensive end Greg Townsend, safety Vann McElroy and cornerback Mike Haynes. With less than a month remaining before the opener against the San Diego Chargers, has the situation reached a critical stage? "I'd hope they'd be getting antsy to get in here," a Raider executive said. "They have to make a decision as to whether they want to be here." . . . Guard John Gesek, who suffered a jammed neck during the Raiders' 23-13 victory at San Francisco on Saturday, didn't practice Monday.