A true freshman starter, former Florida Gators linebacker Earl Everett was unable to complete his degree in four years. He left for the NFL but was once again met with roadblocks as he suffered injuries while in training camp with the Cincinnati Bengals and later as a member of the Atlanta Falcons’ practice squad. Soon after, he had a successful tryout with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL but broke two bones in his leg just days after returning from the workout, stalling his career for the short-term. On schedule to complete his degree at the University of Florida and graduate this summer, Everett is all healed up and ready to head up to Canada for a second chance on a professional football career. Before he returned to Gainesville, FL, Everett spent almost 20 minutes speaking with OGGOA about his career and life up until this point.
ADAM SILVERSTEIN: What are you up to now? I know you are back at UF getting your degree. How is it hanging out with the Gators and seeing head coach Urban Meyer?
EARL EVERETT: “It’s always good to go back. Coach Meyer told a lot of us seniors, he always said, ‘Once a Gator, Always a Gator.’ We will always be tied to the hip. And it’s the truth. Every time I go back and see him, he [tells me] that if I need anything – any advice, a reference for a job – you can always call the coaches and they are there for us guys. Even though you are done, you might be done playing football or done with school, they’re still there. It is a family first program – that’s what it is.”
AS: Are you saying that you feel you are done at this point after your injury during tryouts with Montreal last year?
EE: “No, I actually might have a chance to play over in Canada next year with Chris Leak. I’m kind of looking forward to that. I had a few road bumps – like you said, you know – I got injured and got released from a few teams. Then I decided the next best thing was to go back and finish my degree since I’m so close. I’m taking my last two classes now, Summer A, and I graduate in August.”
Read the rest of our exclusive interview with Earl Everett…after the break!
AS: Back in December, coach Meyer was talking about some of the guys who graduated and called them – you included – some of most intelligent players he had even been around. He always says he wants guys like you to coach with him some day, and I know he mentioned it again to you this spring. Have you given it any further thought?
EE: “I definitely have. What’s funny is that he actually asked me to coach and help coach out during spring. But at the time I was taking four classes and I was like, I want to but my main priority right now is just finishing up this degree. I told him that once I’m done with school and all that – that way I can give all my attention to football and not have to worry about anything else – I’ll definitely be willing to consider playing…I mean coaching.”
EE: “[Laughing] Yeah. Playing and coaching.”
AS: Playing first and then coaching.
EE: “[Laughing] Exactly.”
AS: How close are you to a contract with Montreal?
EE: “I would say it’s pretty close. I should actually have a tryout next month. They told me to go ahead and get my passport and let them know the date I finish school. Their rookie camp starts by June 1. So, hopefully, I end up finishing up next month and I be up there – I’m just ready to get back out there.”
AS: Have you talked to [Allouettes quarterback] Chris Leak about how he likes it?
EE: “Yeah, I talk to Chris a lot. He actually likes it up there a lot. This is going on his third season up there – he’s up there for six months and then he’s home for six months. But he likes it a lot – he’s enjoyed the whole process of being up there. And I’m always hearing people say that Canada has some of the most beautiful cities, so I’m just excited to get back on the field and get up there and see what it’s like. I’m not a fan of the cold weather, but I’ll do it.”
AS: How do you think the CFL’s larger field might affect you. There is a lot of speed in the game up there with some smaller guys running all over the place. Do you think you are still physically able to run them down…maybe without your helmet?
EE: “[Laughing] I think I should be able to adjust very well. I was hearing – I’m not positively sure – but there might have been some rumors about me playing rush end. And I think that’s one of my best assets as a player – my rushing ability. Either way, whether I play rush end or linebacker, I think I will do just fine. By it being a bigger field, the main thing is that you just have to show up and be in shape. That’s the biggest thing. Eating right, living right and everything else will all take place. I’m 25 years old, so I think I still got a few more years left in me.”
AS: Let’s go back to Florida and talk about “the picture.” You must see that more than anything and probably have people coming up to you and saying, “Hey, you’re that linebacker!” How iconic has that been, and what type of reactions do you receive?
EE: “[Laughing] Let me tell you – it’s been crazy. It’s been crazy, man. Oh man… I see that picture almost everywhere I go. Any Gator store. What is funny is that I saw a big blown up picture of it in the mall in Gainesville, and it was on sale for like $380.”
AS: [Laughing] So you bought it…
EE: “[Laughing] No, I didn’t buy it. But I told the lady, I was joking, I was like, ‘Hey! I don’t get none of that?’ And she looked at the picture and was like, ‘Oh my god – it’s you!’ That picture is everywhere man!”
AS: Would you say that’s your best or most memorable moment on the field? Not necessarily just the picture itself, but the entire play – actually going after and making the sack on [Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback] Troy Smith like that without your helmet. Or do you have another play that sticks out in your mind?
EE: “That definitely was the best one. The craziest part about that – a lot of people don’t realize – I didn’t realize my helmet came off until I got like right up on Troy Smith to tackle him. By that time [there was] no turning around. Can’t turn around now. It was a great game, and I was just willing to do whatever it took to get off the field on third down. It’s either win or go home looking sad – and I didn’t want that – that was a long ride home.”
AS: Where are your rings right now?
EE: “They’re at home. I wear them every once in a while, but not too much.”
AS: Just at nice events or any time you want to show off.
EE: “[Laughing] Exactly.”
AS: You said you have been speaking with and seeing coach Meyer a lot. How is he doing health-wise? What are you thoughts on him coming back next season?
EE: “Health-wise, I think he’s doing real good. I workout in between classes down at the stadium just about every day, and I see him either running on the treadmill or… He looks like the same coach Meyer that came in my junior year. He’s looking good, and I’m actually excited that he came back. I didn’t want to see him step down or whatever the process was. Coach Meyer and his coaching staff has changed Florida completely around – from top-to-bottom. They have had a big effect on the players’ lives – not only on the football field but also off the football field.”
AS: You were with the Gators for the major transition from Ron Zook to Meyer. What was the biggest difference you noticed and the most significant change you experienced?
EE: The biggest thing with coach Meyer is that you’re going to do the right things or you’re going home. A lot of players really bought into coach Meyer’s system. Coach Meyer could get walk-ons who you didn’t think could contribute to the team in practice, they’re on the scout team and they’re making the scout team look better than [teams] we’re playing during the season. Coach Meyer made our practices harder than the games. That’s why during the 2006 season we were willing to just fight through and just scratch every game. Even the close games – like South Carolina and Tennessee that year – we won. He’s a great coach and he’s all about doing the right things. And it shows throughout the program these past few years.”
AS: Obviously you are also quite happy with [former defensive coordinator] Charlie Strong getting the head coaching job with the Louisville Cardinals. What kind of impact did he make on you and the team during your college career?
EE: “He had a great impact on all of us. Coach Strong is a big reason why a lot of defensive players came to Florida – he’s the reason I came to Florida. Joe Cohen, Reggie Nelson. He’s the reason a lot of us came to Florida. He’s a great coach, and I hated to see him leave but, at the same time, it’s his time. It’s about time. He’s put in his dues and I think he’s going to do great up there in Louisville.”
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