SI Vault
Farewell: Evel Knievel ... Barbaro
December 31, 2007
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 31, 2007

Farewell: Evel Knievel ... Barbaro

View CoverRead All Articles


OCCASIONALLY ATHLETES are lauded for making the difficult look routine. That never happened with Knievel; footage of the motorcycle-riding daredevil breaking bone upon bone served as a reminder that the stunts he was attempting were indeed extraordinary. Of course the fact that Knievel crashed a lot was part of his allure. He always got back on his bike to defy death—or at least injury—again. Born Robert Craig Knievel in Butte, Mont., he burst onto the scene on New Year's Eve in 1967, when he tried to jump the fountains at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas and wound up in a coma for 29 days. He became a Wide World of Sports staple, the subject of a 1977 biopic (Viva Knievel) and a marketer's dream: His face appeared on everything from lunch boxes to pinball machines. After a lifetime of taking chances, the hard-drinking, hard-brawling Knievel was fighting hepatitis and diabetes when he died. "I created the character called Evel Knievel," he said, "and he sort of got away from me."


THOUGH HE struggled during his first two NFL seasons—he was fined repeatedly for late hits and accused of brandishing a gun during a fight—the Redskins' Pro Bowl safety appeared to put his life in order after the birth of his daughter in 2006. But in an apparent botched robbery at his Miami home, Taylor was killed. During the Skins' next game, at home against the Bills, they sent 10 defenders onto the field for their first play.


HE WASN'T afraid to get thrown from a bull or a bronco—LIFE dubbed him Mister Broken Bones—and he didn't have much use for doctors who tried to talk him out of riding. Told by one he should undergo nasal reconstruction surgery, Shoulders said, "Hell, Doc, I don't hold on with my nose." He stayed on top of enough bucking beasts to win a record 16 riding world titles and was a charter member of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.


AFTER ACHIEVING a 13--1 record and a Top 15 ranking in 2002 at Miami ( Ohio)—where he coached Ben Roethlisberger (SI, Nov. 5, 2007)—Hoeppner was hired by Indiana in '04. The following year he learned that he had a brain tumor; he coached the '06 team to a 5--7 finish but then went on medical leave. Hoeppner died in June, and the Hoosiers dedicated their 2007 season to him. They went 7--5 and earned an Insight Bowl berth.


ASTRONG CONTENDER for the Olympic marathon team in 2008, Shay collapsed and died during the trials in New York City. In '01 he won Notre Dame's first individual NCAA track title, in the 10,000 meters. Two years later he was the U.S. marathon champ, but he struggled with injuries and failed to qualify for the Athens Games. Of his son's enlarged heart, Joe Shay said, "The thing that made him such a great runner may have killed him."

Continue Story
1 2 3