By Tim Graham
Five years ago today, Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett slumped to the Ralph Wilson Stadium turf with a broken neck.
Memories of Everett's life-threatening injury came hurtling back Saturday, when Tulane University safety Devon Walker suffered a broken spine, broken neck and collapsed lung on the field in Tulsa, Okla.
Walker reportedly needed to be revived on the field, and a tracheotomy was performed.
It's too early to know whether Walker will recover from his catastrophic injuries. Tulane announced he was hospitalized in stable condition and with delicate surgery to come.
Everett recovered miraculously from his broken neck with help from radical procedures performed in the ambulance and at Millard Fillmore Hospital.
I visited Everett's home in Spring, Texas, last year and found a man with mixed emotions about his fate. Everett knows he dodged life in a wheelchair and perhaps cheated death. He can walk. He's a family man, married with two daughters. BuffaloBills.com reported this week Everett has another daughter due in December.
As we talked on his sofa and in phone conversations, Everett struggled to reconcile his blessings with the bitterness of having his NFL dreams taken from him at 25 years old. His agent and a close friend told me they doubted Everett would drop his resentment.
"I just always wanted to make the big catch, the big play," Everett said. "I wanted to be that guy. I think about that every day. It crosses my mind at least once a day."
Everett already had maxed out in physical therapy when I met with him. He said he probably won't be able to run again because he loses his balance too easily. He was taking anti-seizure medications to control involuntary muscle spasms.
"I'm happy, man," Everett said. "I know my story has died out, and I wish I could do a lot more as far as not being forgotten and keeping it fresh. But I'm a man of God, and I love my family. All our bills are paid. At the end of the day, if you have a family that loves you, you're blessed."
Everett's dreadful collision occurred opening day, Sept. 9, 2007.
On the fifth anniversary of his injury, the Bills will begin another season, this time against the New York Jets today at the Meadowlands.