- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Everett can live a long, full life, but he will never play his game again. "I miss it, man," he says, and then he pauses, reflecting. "I'm not sure 'miss it' is strong enough. I think about being out there every day. Even back when I tore my ACL, I realized how much love I have for this game. I'm passionate when I'm out there. I'm emotional. I talk a lot of trash.
"I felt like I had a real connection with [rookie quarterback] Trent Edwards," he says. Then comes a crooked smile. "Somebody else is going to have to run that tight end screen now."
Yet the rehab center is no place for tears. It is a humbling place where self-pity is swiftly exposed. Everett understands that power and has embraced it. "Every day I see people in here who are in what you might consider really bad shape," says Everett. "They've had something taken away from them, but they're happy, and they're working hard." A motorized wheelchair glides past. Another patient is lifted onto a soft mat for exercises, unable to do so himself. Yet another walks past Everett and shakes his hand. "Everyone here is so positive," says Everett. "A good attitude will take you a long way. Nobody promised me that I would get this far.
"I'm comfortable with my situation right now," he says. "Some people, I guess it might take them a long time to accept things. But sooner or later, you're going to have to. And then you put your faith in God and let him show you the way."
Moore, his fiancée, drives him to the rehab center in his Escalade and stays there with him. She takes notes and asks questions and seldom leaves his side, a deep expression of love. "We met a man here whose wife left him when he had a spinal cord injury," says Moore. "I could never imagine leaving Kevin. I need to be here for him. I'm thankful that we can still be together. He's alive. That's a blessing in itself."
Everett's mother cooks his meals and cares for him. His siblings treat him like a prodigal brother and clamor for a night out watching the Rockets play. (Kevin has slipped unnoticed into the Toyota Center a few times, watching NBA games from the suite of his agent, Brian Overstreet.) Phones ring throughout the house, the callers wishing Kevin well. "You learn who your friends are when something like this happens," says Everett. "I'm lucky to have people who care about me." He makes a point of praising the hospital staff and introducing them to visitors.
Everett has thought about his future. Friends have contacted him about coaching high school in Texas, and that possibility intrigues him. "I'd like to work with kids," he says. "I'm sure of that. Maybe teaching. I want to stay around football too." He says that with help from the NFL and the Bills, his medical issues have not created a financial burden.
EVERETT SITS at a tall table in the back of the rehab center's gym, playing a game of Chinese checkers against Wiande. Pinching the marbles with his thumb and forefinger—neither of which yet has much sensation to touch—and moving them around the slippery game board is valuable exercise for improving his fine motor skills. The competition feeds his personality. It is as if he is in pads again. Twice today he has beaten therapist Dawn Brown, and now he is closing in on a second win over Wiande. "It's beautiful, isn't it?" he barks after one jump. "I might as well let you move twice."
At last he lifts a tiny black marble and drops it into the final slot, finishing his victory. "I'm just so good!" he shouts. "I'm like the heavyweight champ!"
He swings his legs to the side of the chair and pushes himself into open space before throwing his arms skyward, standing tall, full of life.