Gerald Everett’s odyssey through college football hadn’t ever taken him through Tucson before Monday night.
From Lithonia, Georgia, Everett had signed a letter of intent in 2012 to play at Bethune-Cookman, but instead wound up spending two years at Hutchinson Community College in Kansas. From there, he relocated to University of Alabama Birmingham, where he played one season before that program was — temporarily — disbanded.
That’s all a roundabout way of answering this question — what is a future NFL tight end doing in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl, and for South Alabama of the Sun Belt Conference?
“I would describe it all as a roller coaster,” Everett said at Salpointe Catholic High School on Tuesday after USA’s practice for Friday’s bowl game against Air Force. “I didn’t know that I would end up at South Alabama, but I’m happy for my accomplishments. As of right now, I’m just focused on winning this bowl with my teammates.”
Here’s a list of his accomplishments:
- Two-time first-team Sun Belt All-Conference selection.
- Semifinalist for the 2016 John Mackey Award, given to the nation’s top tight end.
- Eight catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in an upset win of Mississippi State earlier this year, and a combined 13 catches for 267 yards and two touchdowns in two upset wins of San Diego State the last two seasons.
Everett’s most notable accomplishment, though, won’t come until April 2017.
That is, the NFL Draft.
Everett is expected to be a high draft pick — USA coach Joey Jones guessed second or third round — which is impressive in more ways than one, the obvious being just how difficult it is to get drafted in the first place.
South Alabama recently had three players on NFL rosters — cornerback Montell Garner (Steelers) and tight ends Wes Saxton (Redskins) and Braedon Bowman (Jets) — but none were drafted.
In fact, the Jaguars have never even had a player drafted into the NFL. They will in April.
“He’ll probably be ranked among the top 2-3 tight ends in the country,” Jones said. “He’s a good player and he’s even a better person. He works hard and really cares about the game so he’s a special athlete, the best I’ve ever seen.”
That Everett is even being talked about as a future NFL player is “special,” he said.
NFL Draft Scout rates Everett as the sixth-best tight end in the upcoming draft class.
“I try to tune it out,” Everett said. “I think about it a little bit, but I try not to let it get to me too much. I don’t want to be distracted from what I want to do now. It’s definitely exciting, but I gotta focus on the task at hand.”
Beyond that, Everett sometimes can’t even fathom the idea that he’s being discussed as a likely NFL player. Out of high school, his best scholarship offer was from Bethune Cookman, after all.
“My whole life I’ve felt like I’ve been overlooked,” Everett said, “but it happens to the best of us, even with the greats, like Jerry Rice and etc., but I’m just excited. I’m not really worried about what everybody else thinks of me.”
He might not worry what anyone else thinks, but he doesn’t have to anyway — it’s mostly all raves and admiration.
Air Force coach Troy Calhoun said Everett’s best attributes are his strength, power, blocking and ability to make plays “with the ball in the air.”
“He’s an excellent football player,” Calhoun said.
In October, an AFC scout told CBS Sports about Everett: “Smooth athlete. Powerful strides. I’ll bet my paycheck he comes out on top when left alone in single coverage.”
For now, Everett is just hoping to come out on top in the last game of his college career, to help the Jaguars secure their first-ever bowl win.
“I know I’m gonna be emotional coming out, doing it with my guys for the last time, but I’m just gonna soak it all in,” Everett said. “It’s definitely fun. It’s just a whirlwind. It’s exciting, but it’s a change of pace for me, getting ready to close this chapter of my life.”