Kevin Everett is a hometown boy, a graduate of Port Arthur's storied Thomas Jefferson High School. Today, this 25-year-old kid who had the world ahead of him lies still as death in a New York hospital, his spinal cord irreparably damaged by a head-on collision in an NFL game last Sunday. He might never walk again but, incredibly, that's not the worst news. This particular injury leaves him open to more catastrophic -- that's their word for "possibly fatal" -- events like infection or blood clots.
Everett was here in Southeast Texas a few months ago to put on a football camp in Port Arthur, where football might be the only way out of that dismal industrial town for a lot of kids (one being the current University of Texas standout Jamaal Charles.) Everett overcame a lot of handicaps in his young life to become and NFL player and it was going to be his ticket to a dream. About the same age as Falcon's QB Michael Vick without Vick's stardom, he certainly represents the better side of professional athletes: Hard-working, involved and unassuming.
I've been on a few playing fields in my life. Great athletes -- whether Pop Warner League or the NFL -- don't think about getting hurt while they're on the field. Most fear being embarrassed far more than they fear getting hurt. Worrying about injuries is a bus ticket back home to Port Arthur or some other dismal place where you'll forever be known as the guy who had a shot at the Big Time but got hurt. Massive, muscled bodies are thrashing around out there like unguided cannon shells, and stepping two inches to your left can make the difference between a touchdown and a career-ending ACL tear. You think about the touchdown ... not the ACL.
And truth be known, football players play injured most of the time; their injuries would send most average office workers home to bed for 3 or 4 sick days, but they are working with sprained ankles, dislocated fingers, deep bruises all over their bodies, cracked ribs, battered tendons and ligaments holding by only a thread. You simply cannot succeed on a football field by thinking about the injury that could happen at any second in a 3,600-second game.
Kevin Everett wasn't think about snapping his own neck when he collided with a Denver Bronco in Buffalo on Sunday. He was thinking about making the tackle. He was thinking about getting off the special teams squad and playing first-string tight-end. He was thinking he might help his team win this season-opening game. No, he was dreaming. But he wasn't thinking about getting hurt. It's a game. People shouldn't die.
Say a prayer for Kevin Everett. And next time you go to a high school football game, say an extra prayer for every kid out there, because he's not thinking about getting hurt. He's thinking that someday, he might get his shot at a dream, too.