Buffalo Bills Throwback: Reliving Kevin Everett
On August 11th, 2005, the Buffalo Bills signed their third-round pick of that year’s draft, tight end Kevin Everett out of the University of Miami (FL). After missing the entirety of his freshman campaign, he played in all 16 games in his second season in the NFL.
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Little did he know, that was the only full season he would ever play in the league.
On September 9, 2007, the Buffalo Bills welcomed in the Denver Broncos for their season-opener, one that was full of anticipation. Even though they had finished a game below .500 the season before, they were sitting fully in the playoff race at 7-7 before losing their final two games.
Unfortunately, that beautiful, sunny day in Orchard Park, NY soon turned dark and gloomy. For about 15 minutes at the start of the second half, the world stood still for everyone in attendance.
The half started with a Rian Lindell kickoff that was fielded by Domenik Hixon around the goal line. Hixon made a cut up near the 20-yard line and was met by the very-good special teamer in Everett. The returner spilled to the ground in a tumbling fashion.
Everett’s chin rose and he fell straight to the turf. There he laid, motionless.
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I sat in my grandparent’s living room, speechless. My dad was at the game, and nobody spoke above a whisper and there were barely any of those. He distinctly remembers one of his friends leaning over and asking “is he dead?”
He was not too far away. Medics immobilized him and put him into the ambulance, while the stadium stayed silent. Normally, when a player is put up into an ambulance, a thumbs up is given to the crowd to signify that he is and will be okay.
No such gesture came from Everett, and as he was loaded into the medical vehicle with a broken spine, among other injuries to his neck. Bills and Broncos players, enemies only by the jersey they wore, huddled together in prayer that their brother on the field would be just as brave outside of those white lines in recovery, as he was inside of them for those two-plus seasons.
At Millard Fillmore Gates Hospital in Buffalo, Dr. Andrew Cappuccino was waiting to perform emergency surgery on this life-threatening injury. After more than four hours, eight screws, two rods and a titanium plate were put into his neck area to rearrange the spine. Though the operation was successful, the likelihood of a full recovery was not.
Two weeks later, he did what was thought to be impossible at the time. The former tight end showed signs of movement. Although small in size, these movements showed that he was indeed capable of making some sort of recovery.
Cappuccino warned that a full neurological recovery was bleak, but with each passing day, Everett was heading towards that. He was then moved to a rehab facility near his home in Houston, Texas.
With each passing day, Everett defied the odds and got better and better.
With each passing day, Everett proved everybody wrong and with that same determination he brought to the football field, made his full recovery.
It is almost as if, growing up in Port Arthur, Texas, those odds of making it to the NFL that drove him to succeed and make it to the league, was the same motivation to prove everybody wrong and make a full recovery.
What is hidden underneath the story is the classiness of the Bills organization. In the NFL, a player needs three full seasons in the league in order to qualify for a pension. Rather than cutting him right after the injury, Buffalo held onto him until May of 2008, qualifying him for this privilege.
He was also given the 2008 Jimmy V Award of Perseverance at the ESPY awards.
For a player who had two catches for four yards in his entire career, you would think he would be thrown into the long list of Bills tight ends that were not very good and did not pan out.
Oh no. This man embodies the true spirit of what Buffalo is: grit, determination and a fight that does not die until the clock hits zero.