Former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett shared the story of his recovery from an injury with guests at MCCC.
Everett was 25-years-old when he injured himself covering a kickoff. He broke the third and fourth vertebrae in his neck and suffered a spinal cord injury, which immediately paralyzed him from the neck down.
Everett’s football career began at Thomas Jefferson High School, in his hometown of Port Arthur, Texas.
He always felt he would become a basketball player, until a football coach told him the NFL offered far more opportunities to make a living than the NBA. Everett made the switch to football and said it was one of the best decisions he made.
Everett’s first major obstacle in life came during his senior year of high school. After accusations that an English teacher was giving him grades, the school decided to move him into another English class, an Advanced Placement course.
The final semester of his class was difficult, and the teacher failed him, which left him academically ineligible for a Division I school. This forced him to enroll at a community college, and Everett chose Kilgore Community College in Texas.
Everett earned the required grades to qualify for a Division I school during his time at Kilgore. In his two years there, his school won a national championship and he was also named an All-American both years.
He transferred to his dream college, the University of Miami, where he enjoyed a solid career as a college star.
Everett attributed his faith in God as a major factor in his ability to withstand the adversity.
“My faith carried me through many difficult things,” Everett said.
Everett was picked in the third round by the Buffalo Bills in the 2005 NFL Draft. But, another major setback occurred before his first professional season even started. In pre-season training camp, Everett blew out his knee, shredding major ligaments and ending his season before it started. Everett became very discouraged.
Everett’ second professional season was a typical season for an NFL player. He had the normal bumps and bruises all players acquire through a full season, but suffered no major injuries. He was a reserve, mainly playing on special teams.
His third season in Buffalo began as a major breakthrough. Everett had finally achieved his dream of becoming a starting NFL player, but that dream did not last long.
On Sept. 9, 2007, in the third quarter of the third game, Everett was covering a kickoff. When he tackled Dominik Hixon, Everett’s helmet hit Hixon’s shoulder pad. Everett fell to the ground motionless as soon as he made the hit, and his body slightly twitched while he attempted to move. He had no feeling in his body from the neck down.
“I couldn’t feel anything. I tried to give my teammates a thumbs-up, but I knew I couldn’t,” Everett said. “But God told me everything was going to be alright.”
Doctors used a cold saline injection to stop and attempt to reduce swelling on their way to the emergency room. This procedure had been learned a few weeks before his injury, at a seminar at the Bills’ home stadium. It is widely considered the reason Everett was able to recover from the injury.
Everett was rushed into emergency surgery. Doctors removed his third and fourth vertebrae, and used a bone graft along with screws and a metal plate to stabilize the spine. Everett’s mother and girlfriend were waiting in tears when he woke up.
Everett had a “why me?” mindset in the time after his surgery. Eventually though, he told himself that everything happens for a reason.
Everett shocked doctors worldwide when he regained the ability to walk after months of rehabilitation. He was given an extremely small chance to regain full motion of his body, but Everett overcame the odds.
Everett said that one of the most emotional moments of his life came when he was able to walk onto the Bills’ field pregame to the roar of the crowd.
Although Everett was able to regain full movement, the pain has not, and will never, go away.
“I suffer pain 24/7,” Everett said. “I’ll be on medication the rest of my life to control spasms. I feel pain from my neck to my toes. You have to learn to deal with it.”
Everett now runs the Kevin Everett Foundation instead of playing football.