Sept. 20, 2013
By Jerry Hill
Baylor Bear Insider
Thomas Everett has been proving people wrong since his days at Daingerfield (Texas) High School, where his retired jersey hangs in the football field house.
Despite being versatile enough to play seven different positions, including quarterback, Everett was largely overlooked by college scouts and had zero offers from Southwest Conference schools until the week before signing day.
Calling it divine intervention, Everett was meeting with an assistant coach from Stephen F. Austin in the high school gym when the "door at the other end of the gym opened, and (Baylor assistant coach) Bill Lane walked in."
"(The SFA coach) just got up, shook my hand and walked out the front door," Everett said, "and that's how my career started at Baylor."
That Baylor career got off to a rocky start as a freshman in 1983, when SMU receiver Marquis Pleasant ran "by him like he was standing still," said legendary coach Grant Teaff, for a 62-yard touchdown catch in the Mustangs' 42-26 win.
"He was green as a gord," Teaff said. "He was just in a foreign world."
The next spring, though, Everett said he was "becoming the `Prime Time' of that cornerback position. . . . I didn't have any balls caught on me that spring."
But after a 47-13 loss to eventual national champion BYU in the 1984 season opener, secondary coach Rick Johnson told the 5-foot-9, 180-pound defensive back he was moving to safety.
"Kids today, you tell them they're going to move, and they'll go running to their parents and whine about it," said Everett, the designated "Legend" among the 1980s players that will be recognized at today's game. "But I was like, `OK, move me to safety.' That's how much respect I had for my head coach in Grant Teaff and in my secondary coach. I loved that guy. He taught me everything. They felt like I was a playmaker, and they wanted me to move there. So I was like, `All right.'''
Everett, who still ranks among Baylor's career leaders in interceptions (12), tackles (325) and punt return yards (766), was a two-time All-American for the Bears and the inaugural winner of the Jim Thorpe Award as the best defensive back in the country in 1986.
"If you watched all the defensive backs, even (Rod) Woodson, Everett was the most productive guy out there," said former Tampa Bay and Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy, who was the Pittsburgh Steelers defensive coordinator at the time. "As far as making plays, making tackles, getting to the ball and getting interceptions, he showed up on film more than anyone else who came out that year."
So why is it that Everett was the 16th defensive back and 94th player overall taken, when the Steelers nabbed him in the fourth round of the 1987 NFL Draft. Back in his KWTX-TV days, "Voice of the Bears" John Morris was camped out waiting for Everett to be drafted as Baylor teammates Ron Francis, Cody Carlson and Ray Berry were taken ahead of him.
"All along, my attitude was, so be it. As long as I get in a camp, I'm going to do it. That's just the way I felt in my heart."
Outlasting most of the players picked ahead of him, Everett was a nine-year starter with the Steelers (1987-91), Dallas Cowboys (1992-93) and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1994-95). He won back-to-back Super Bowl championships with the Cowboys and earned a Pro Bowl berth in '93, finishing his career with 565 tackles, 21 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries.
"You couldn't draw it up any better," Everett said of his return to Texas with the Cowboys. "Right here at home, you've got a team on the cusp, I was like, `Shoot, let's do it.' That was the place I was supposed to be."
Since retiring from the NFL, Everett has coached and trained youth athletes "and the older jokers as well," he said, through his Thomas Everett Athletics program in Dallas. Everett won a state championship as a defensive coordinator with American Heritage Academy in 2005 and had a two-year stint as the head coach at Episcopal School of Dallas.
Now 48 years old, Everett said he would "definitely field any calls on coaching."
"There are some things with the training that we're working on, getting ready to roll out," he said. "But then again, if somebody calls for coaching, I can put those on hold to go coach."