Former Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett’s name still rings a bell almost two decades after his freak career-ending injury that rocked the National Football League in 2007.
Everett, a third-year player who wanted to make up for lost time, plowed into Denver Broncos kick return specialist Domenik Hixon in the season opener on September 9, 2007.
While it seemed like a normal football injury at first, it became anything but after Everett lay motionless on the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf for almost 15 minutes.
It was an eerie scene reminiscent of other career-ending football injuries such as those of Joe Theismann, Mike Utley, and Dennis Byrd.
Physicians later determined that Everett had wrecked his spine and gave him the grim diagnosis that he was probably going to become a quadriplegic.
Fast forward just one month later and Kevin Everett defied the odds and began walking unassisted.
Today, Everett is a doting family man whose courage and determination have inspired countless football fans.
This is Kevin Everett’s inspiring journey on the gridiron.
Kevin Everett was born on February 5, 1982, in Port Arthur, TX. He is the only boy in a brood of four. He has three younger sisters: Herchell, Kelli, and Davia.
Their single mother, Patricia Dugas, raised them mostly by herself. Consequently, Kevin became the man of the house at an early age.
Kevin acted as a second father to his three younger sisters. According to Sam Carchidi, who wrote his 2013 biography Standing Tall: The Kevin Everett Story, he helped changed their diapers, played with them, and gave them baths.
“He just took on so much responsibility because he loved them so much,” Dugas told Carchidi.
Kevin’s biological father never played a prominent role in his life. When his mother, Patricia, married his stepdad, Herchel Dugas, in 1989, the latter did not become much of a father figure, either.
Instead, Kevin looked up to his maternal grandfather, James “Junior” Nico, as his role model during his formative years in the Lone Star State.
“I sort of looked to my grandfather,” Everett told Carchidi in 2013. “He basically did everything for me in my life, as far as taking care of me and showing me the love he would show to a son. I got closer and closer to him.”
Junior Nico was present for his grandson from the very beginning—he helped Kevin take his first baby steps in 1982. Patricia Dugas remembered Kevin taking two steps before he fell and got back up again. It was a proud moment for her as his mother.
Junior was also around when Kevin rode his first bike as a preschooler. He also accompanied his grandson on fishing and rodeo trips.
Junior, who worked as a heavy machine operator, also taught Kevin valuable life lessons on the front porch of his house. He encouraged him to always do his best with the talents and abilities he had.
When family issues reached a boiling point at home, Kevin stayed with his grandparents, Junior and Anita.
Once things were back to normal, he went back home. The trend continued during Kevin’s grade school and high school days in Port Arthur, TX.
Kevin eventually moved in with his grandparents when he turned 14 in 1996. His family members agreed it was the best decision for him at the time.
Everett relished his grandmother’s home cooking. He loved her specialty which she called “Smothered Chicken,” which consisted of sausage, bacon, and red beans. When she added brown gravy and onions, Kevin loved it even more.
Kevin also never forgot his grandmother’s disciplinarian ways. Whenever he acted up at home, Anita Nico laid down the law and promptly straightened him out. Thankfully, Kevin turned into a fine gentleman as a result.
Kevin played organized football for the first time as an eighth-grade student at Thomas Edison Junior High School, per Carchidi.
Everett already had an imposing figure as a 14-year-old—he stood 6’3″ and dwarfed most of his teammates on the football team.
When Kevin signed up for Thomas Edison’s football squad, he did not see anybody who was as tall as he. Everett doubted they would win a game with that lineup.
Quarterback Tony Tompkins remembered Kevin telling him that on signup day. Although Tony never said anything, Everett’s remark angered him.
Fortunately, Tompkins’ perception of Everett changed just a few games into the season. Kevin became one of his favorite weapons. Before long, the two boys forged a tight, lifelong friendship.
Kevin Everett attended Thomas Jefferson High School (now known as Memorial High School) in his hometown of Port Arthur, TX.
Everett told his biographer that he wanted to go to that school because his cousins were alumni. Plus, the Jefferson Yellow Jackets had a rich football tradition he could not pass up.
Hey #BillsMafia, I’m giving away an autographed copy of Kevin Everett’s inspiring book from 2008 titled “Standing Tall.” Just give me a retweet and a follow to hear about our roster of current sports book releases and I’ll pick a winner. #GoBills #Bills #Buffalo pic.twitter.com/WFkHY77g1X
— Bill Ames (@billames) September 27, 2018
Tony Tompkins followed suit and also played for Yellow Jackets head football coach Al Celaya during their high school days.
Sadly, Kevin’s beloved grandmother, Anita Nico, passed away due to cancer when Kevin was a high school junior in 1999.
Anita’s death made Kevin grow closer to his grandfather, Junior. Although his grandfather hardly attended any of his high school football games because of his health issues, Kevin was understanding.
Junior Nico marveled at Kevin’s character—he was an upstanding young man who never drank alcohol or got himself into trouble.
Kevin played on both sides of the ball for the Jefferson Yellow Jackets. He racked up more than 300 receiving yards on offense as a senior tight end.
Everett recorded 14 tackles for loss and six forced fumbles as a defensive end.
Behind Kevin Everett’s inspired play on both sides of the ball, the Yellow Jackets won seven of 11 games and made an appearance in the state playoffs.
Everett would go through the proverbial eye of the needle before he earned a spot on the college football team he wanted to play for—the Miami Hurricanes.
College Days with the Miami Hurricanes
Although Miami Hurricanes tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski recruited Kevin Everett in his senior year of high school in 1999, a solitary failing mark made him ineligible, per Sports Illustrated’s Tim Layden.
Consequently, Kevin Everett took the JUCO route and attended Kilgore College in Kilgore, TX from 2001 to 2002.
Everett suited up for Kilgore Rangers head football coach Jimmy Rieves.
Rieves told Kevin Everett’s biographer, Sam Carchidi, that Everett was a pleasure to coach. He worked hard on the gridiron and never had any off-field issues.
Rieves also sang Everett’s praises to Sports Illustrated in Kevin’s third year in the NFL in 2007.
“A lot of talented players come to junior college and get in trouble,” Rieves told Layden. “Not Kevin. There was no foolishness about him whatsoever.”
Kevin exceeded expectations during his two-year stint at Kilgore. He earned First-Team All-Southwest Junior College honors for two consecutive years.
After strutting his wares at the JUCO level, Everett finally joined the Hurricanes in the spring semester of the 2003 NCAA season.
Everett fortified a powerhouse Miami lineup that already included future NFL stars Devin Hester, Sean Taylor, Jonathan Vilma, Frank Gore, and Kellen Winslow II.
Their swagger soon rubbed off on Kevin, who did not back down from anybody. His toughness impressed Chudzinski, who was already the Hurricanes’ offensive coordinator by the time Kevin came on board in 2003.
“Over time, he became one of the toughest kids we had at Miami,” Chudzinski told Sports Illustrated some four years later.
— Bradley Gelber (@BradleyGelber) March 26, 2014
Kevin met his girlfriend and future wife, track athlete Wiande Moore, during their college days at Miami.
Moore spent her formative years in war-torn Liberia, a Western African country.
Everett had a combined 400 receiving yards and three touchdowns on 32 receptions from 2003 to 2004.
Under Miami head football coach Larry Coker’s leadership, the Hurricanes averaged ten wins per season in Kevin Everett’s junior and senior seasons.
They beat the Florida State Seminoles in the 2004 Orange Bowl, 16-14. Miami routed another in-state powerhouse, the Florida Gators, in the 2004 Peach Bowl, 27-10.
Kevin Everett finished his college football career on a high note. He then embarked on a short and injury-riddled career with the NFL’s Buffalo Bills that constantly reminded fans of the game’s violent nature.
Pro Football Career
The Buffalo Bills made Kevin Everett the 86th overall selection of the 2005 NFL Draft.
Everett’s pro football career got off to a rough start. He sat out the entire 2005 NFL campaign after he tore a ligament in his left knee on the first day of minicamp.
With an ailing Kevin Everett on the sidelines, the Bills won just five games and missed the postseason for the sixth straight year.
Everett tried to make up for lost time in the 2006 NFL season. He played mostly special teams for first-year Bills head coach Dick Jauron.
Everett played in all 16 games and started four for Buffalo in 2006. The Bills were just a tad better than the year before with a below-average 7-9 win-loss record.
Everett helped console his high school teammate and one of his best friends, Tony Tompkins, the following year.
Tompkins’ mother, Tangela, was dying of colon cancer in 2007. Kevin spent most weekends with Tony. The two friends shot pool and talked—it was a release that Tony needed during a trying time in his life.
Kevin Everett was primed for a breakthrough season in his third year in the NFL in 2007. Unfortunately, a cruel twist of fate threw a wrench in Everett’s plans.
The Buffalo Bills’ 2007 season opener was one that the Bills Mafia would rather forget. Not only did Kevin Everett’s pro football career take a turn for the worse, but it was a day that reminded fans of the violent nature of the gridiron.
As the second half of the game against the Denver Broncos began on September 9, 2007, Broncos kick return specialist Domenik Hixon received the kickoff.
Everett noticed none of the Broncos had blocked him on the kickoff return.
“They didn’t want to block me,” Everett told Carchidi in December 2007. “I guess they watched film on how I run into guys.”
Jauron assigned Everett to do the dirty work on special teams. Everett took on the role of wedge-buster —the player who rams into several blockers hoping to impede the kick returner’s running lanes.
Everett tried to tackle Hixon. In doing so, his helmet violently plowed into Hixon’s helmet and shoulder pads.
At that particular moment, Kevin remembered his body feeling numb after the violent collision. Everett wanted to reach out and tackle Hixon, but he could not.
Kevin hit the turf face-first. He lay on the ground for 13 minutes. The crowd of 71,132 fans fell silent—one could hear a pin drop while the Bills tight end lay motionless on the gridiron.
Buffalo trainer Bud Carpenter asked Everett to move his limbs, to no avail. The Bills medical director, Dr. John Marzo, and assistant trainer Chris Fischetti touched various parts of Kevin’s body. Unfortunately, he could not feel anything below his neck area.
Kevin wanted to give a thumbs-up sign similar to the one former Detroit Lions offensive lineman Mike Utley did when he was paralyzed in a game against the Los Angeles Rams almost 16 years earlier.
The worst-case scenario had already crossed Kevin’s mind.
“I’m done,” Everett told himself (via his 2013 biography). “I’m going to be paralyzed.”
Bills orthopedist Dr. Andrew Cappuccino had a grim diagnosis on the field. Since Kevin could not move any of his body parts from the neck down, he assumed he was a quadriplegic.
Bills and Broncos players held hands and formed a circle praying for Everett several minutes after he collapsed on the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf.
Everett’s fellow Bills tight end, Robert Royal, stood in the middle of the circle and pleaded for divine intervention for his fallen teammate.
Buffalo wide receiver Roscoe Parrish, Kevin’s close friend and former Miami Hurricanes teammate, thought it was a typical football injury. However, Parrish’s optimism waned the longer Everett lay on the ground.
Junior Nico, Kevin Everett’s grandfather who became his father figure during his formative years in Texas, was crushed when he found out about his grandson’s injury.
Everett’s girlfriend, Wiande Moore, taught tenth-grade English and coached track and field at the time. She had no idea about Kevin’s injury since she was 1,500 miles away in Houston, TX. She was at a car wash at the time.
Wiande went to church earlier that morning. She intended to go to the Everett residence in Humble, TX—a house Kevin purchased in his second pro football season—after she had her car washed to watch the game.
Kevin’s mom, who Wiande fondly called “Mrs. Patricia,” suddenly called her to inform her of a change of plans.
Houston television stations did not broadcast the Bills game against the Denver Broncos. Wiande and Kevin’s family had to watch the game from Mulligan’s Sports Bar in Humble, TX instead.
Just several minutes later, Wiande’s cousin called and informed her of Kevin’s injury.
According to Wiande Moore’s journal, she panicked during the drive to the Everett residence. Patricia Dugas called her from the sports bar and told her Kevin lay motionless on the Ralph Wilson Stadium field.
When she first saw him at the hospital, she had to hang on to his hospital bed railing to keep herself steady.
Wiande, a Liberian immigrant, witnessed gunfights and bullets almost grazing her and her relatives during her childhood. That harrowing experience was nothing compared to seeing her beloved Kevin suffering at the hospital, per Carchidi.
It was another setback for the Everett family that same month. Kevin’s mom, Patricia, had recently looked after his 11-year-old sister, Davia, at the hospital after physicians diagnosed her with a diabetic coma.
Emergency responders placed Kevin Everett into an ambulance 13 minutes after that tragic hit on Hixon. The sellout crowd broke its silence and roared loudly—so loudly, in fact, that the ambulance shook, per Carchidi.
Physicians gave Kevin Solu-Medrol, a steroid that helped keep the swelling in his spinal cord in check. They also injected iced saline into Everett’s veins to regulate his body temperature.
Everett told them he had breathing issues several minutes later. Nobody knew at that point if he would survive his ordeal.
While emergency responders did their best to keep Kevin Everett alive, Broncos kicker Jason Elam won the game with a field goal at the end of regulation, 15-14.
The Bills’ loss took a backseat to Kevin Everett, who was hanging on for dear life at the hospital.
“Football isn’t what’s important now,” Buffalo tight end Robert Royal told Carchidi.
Everett’s injury brought black flashbacks of an earlier injury his college football coach, Jimmy Rieves, witnessed in 1989.
Back then, Rieves was a graduate assistant for the Ole Miss Rebels football team. He saw Rebels defensive back Chucky Mullins suffer an almost similar fate as Everett during a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Mullins broke up a pass attempt intended for Commodores running back Brad Gaines. Mullins wound up crashing into Gaines and broke four of his vertebrae.
Just like Kevin Everett, Chucky Mullins could not feel anything from his neck down.
Sadly, Mullins succumbed to respiratory complications stemming from his injury.
Kevin Everett underwent four hours of surgery at Milliard Filmore Gates Hospital. Doctors discovered Everett had dislocated his third and fourth cervical vertebrae. In Carchidi’s words, it was “a train wreck of the spine.”
Bills orthopedist, Andrew Cappuccino, who performed the surgery with Dr. Kevin Gibbons, believed that the probability that Kevin Everett would fully recover was slim to none.
“I believe there will be some permanent neurological paralysis,” Cappuccino told Carchidi.
The Bills’ orthopedist also feared that Everett was at risk of developing respiratory failure, blood clots, and infection sometime later.
Kevin Everett defied the odds as time went by.
Everett flew to Houston, TX to start the rehabilitation process on September 21, 2007. Moore, who was already his fiance at the time, was his designated driver.
Thanks in large part to 20 hours of weekly physical therapy at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research at Memorial Hermann Medical Center, Kevin was progressing at an impressive rate.
According to Sports Illustrated, Everett was already walking unassisted just one month after his freak injury against the Broncos.
Although Everett lost approximately 35 pounds, he seemed lively for someone whose life was teetering on the brink just three months earlier.
While Kevin was rehabbing, his mother Patricia cooked his meals and nurtured him. It was a hard time for Everett, who had to rely mostly on his nurses and family members to help him perform menial tasks such as eating.
Against all odds, Kevin Everett’s doctors gave him his release papers from the hospital on November 18, 2007, per Sports Illustrated’s Vidur Malik. It had only been two-and-a-half months since his career-ending injury against the Broncos.
At that point, his friends were asking him about the possibility of becoming a high school coach.
Everett told Layden it seemed like an intriguing possibility—he wanted to work with kids and do something related to football now that his playing days were over.
Everett won the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the 2008 ESPY Awards.
For Kevin Everett, the biggest takeaway from his harrowing ordeal on the gridiron was getting back up on his feet when life dealt him a bad hand.
“Just because you get knocked down doesn’t mean you’ve got to stay down,” Everett told Layden in December 2007. “If you get knocked down, you’ve got to get back up.”
Kevin Everett, his wife Wiande, and their three daughters, Famatta, Faith, and Kelani, currently reside in the Magnolia, TX area, per Sports Illustrated. Kevin loves the peaceful nature of the city.
Everett told Vidur in the summer of 2014 that he wasn’t sure if his freak injury was going to hinder his ability to procreate. After having three daughters, he felt blessed.
The NFL sends disability and retirement checks monthly to Everett to help cover his medical bills. His wife, Wiande, resigned from her tenth-grade teaching position in 2012 so she could become a full-time mother to their children.
— John Kucko (@john_kucko) July 4, 2014
Everett admitted to Sports Illustrated that watching football in the immediate aftermath of his career-ending injury in 2007 was a painful experience. Fortunately, time has helped him cope with his struggles.
“It wasn’t meant to be,” Everett told Malik in 2014. “That’s the only way I can look at it; that’s the only way I’ve come to accept it.”
Seven years after Kevin Everett played his final NFL down, he became a family man who looked after his daughters, did yard work, read books, and shot pool, per Sports Illustrated.
Everett also works out regularly. However, he hasn’t lifted weights heavier than 20 pounds as of 2014. He also pays careful attention to his nutrition habits. His current weight hovers around the 235-pound mark.
Everett deals with pain in his neck, back, and limbs from the moment he wakes up in the morning. Sometimes, pain even interrupts his sleep. His wife, Wiande, told Malik that getting out of bed is often a tough ordeal for him.
Everett told The Buffalo News’ Bucky Gleason in 2014 that his faith and family are the two most important priorities in his life.