Junior defensive back is leading the Aggies’ defense by example
by Rusty Burson
12th Man Magazine
For the most part, Texas A&M junior defensive back Deshazor Everett is a soft-spoken, mild-mannered and laid-back young man who isn’t easily rattled, rarely raises his voice in a conversation and typically maintains a low-key demeanor. Those traits suit him well, especially in pressure-packed situations, as a member of the Aggies’ secondary.
Those characteristics also make him the polar opposite of his stepfather, Joseph Bolden, an ultra-engaging, high-decibel and easily excitable man, whose personality appears to be more bubbly than a just-opened champagne bottle. Bolden, a truck driver based in DeRidder, La. (a community of about 11,000 residents located 50 miles east of Jasper, Texas and 50 miles north of Lake Charles, La.), is so enthusiastic that it would seem appropriate to separate his initials by explanation points, not mere periods.
And Bolden’s favorite subject to discuss—the one that makes him even more animated than normal—is Everett, the young man whom he helped to raise from an early age. It’s practically impossible to convince Everett to say anything remotely braggadocios about himself or the way he is playing for the Aggies. Bolden, on the other hand, will happily, proudly and loudly sing his stepson’s praises.
“Whoa man, I tell ya that D—that’s short for Deshazor and that’s what I call him—is a really, really good football player,” Bolden said emphatically. “But he’s much more than that. Yes sir-ee, he is also a great drummer. He is so good on the drums that he could be in a band. He is also a really, really good dirt bike racer. I trained him to ride motorcycles when he was about 6 years old, and he could do that competitively now if he wanted to do so. D can do jumps and stuff that I would never even dream of doing. He also is a great mechanic. Shoot, he (installed) the transmission in the car he is driving now. Oh yeah, D can do it all. Yes sir, he can. I mean it.”
Texas A&M football fans don’t need much convincing of that these days. Through the first half of the 2013 season, Everett has clearly been the overall best A&M defender, a do-it-all defensive back on a unit in desperate need of playmakers and difference-makers. He’s excelled at cornerback and safety, and he has also made an impact on special teams.
"I’m pleased with the way I have been playing, but I always want to keep my focus on the next game. I can tell you I’m not the only playmaker on defense. I’m definitely not the only leader, either."
- Deshazor Everett
Although he missed half of the first game of the season against Rice for disciplinary reasons and then missed half of the next game against Sam Houston State because he was flagged and then suspended for a questionable “targeting” violation, Everett ranked second behind only Howard Matthews among all A&M defenders with 31 tackles in the first five games of the season.
He also picked up a fumble and returned it for a touchdown against SMU on Sept. 21 and returned a key interception 34 yards for a touchdown to open the third quarter the following weekend at Arkansas. Through the first month of the season, Everett even ranked in the top 10 in scoring for the Aggies. And he compiled all of those numbers while wearing a bulky cast on his right hand to protect the broken thumb he suffered in preseason practices.
The cast came off prior to the Ole Miss game, so there is a chance that Everett could be an even bigger playmaker throughout the rest of the year. Regardless, he has developed a tremendous presence on the defense and has earned a positive reputation among his teammates for leading by example on the field.
“We moved him from corner to safety, and he is making tackles and he scored back-to-back weeks,” A&M head coach Kevin Sumlin said. “He is just an invaluable piece to what we are doing (defensively). He understands what we are trying to do. He really is playing out of position because he is our best corner. He gives us speed back there and has saved some touchdowns.
“Anytime you have a team that is winning, you have to have some unselfish players. I put him in that group of (our most unselfish players). Deshazor is an example to the rest of our guys. His unselfishness is a great example of what it is to be a teammate. You will also see him on a number of our special teams, covering kicks and being on the front line of our kickoff return team. He is doing a heckuva a job, and he is just going to do whatever it takes to win.”
His high school coach at Class 4A DeRidder is not the least bit surprised that Everett is earning rave reviews for his unselfish nature. As a two-time all-state honoree in Louisiana, Everett did virtually everything for the Dragons, playing defensive back, tailback, kickoff returner and punt returner.
“We even put him at receiver occasionally and threw passes to him, and he would also receive the direct snap from center in our wildcat package,” DeRidder head coach Eric Parmley said of Everett. “He is a tremendous athlete who can play anywhere, and you would think a kid of that caliber in high school would be begging me to run the ball all the time. But I never heard a word out of him. It was just like, ‘Whatever I have to do coach, let’s go.’ As a matter of fact, we even put him in as a blocking back as kind of a decoy. He is super unselfish.”
Even the perpetually humble Everett agrees with that statement, acknowledging that he cares much more about contributing to a winning team than being recognized individually. His naturally noble, team-first demeanor made the notoriety he received this summer particularly difficult to stomach.
In early July, news broke that Everett and teammate Floyd Raven had been charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault and one count of criminal mischief stemming from an April incident in College Station.
According to published news reports, two unidentified men received injuries as a result of a fight that involved Everett and Raven at a College Station apartment complex. The altercation apparently started at a bar and then moved on to an apartment complex.
After warrants were issued in late June, Everett and Raven immediately turned themselves in and were released from jail the same day, according to the Brazos County Sheriff’s official website. Then in late August, A&M school officials announced that Raven would miss one full game, while Everett sat out the first half of the opener.
While the punishment was painful, what really hurt Everett was the realization that he had let his teammates down and had potentially stained his sparkling reputation. Everett considers himself a God-first person even more than he views himself as a team-first player.
His stepfather has always strived to be a strong and positive male role model for Everett. Bolden doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke and doesn’t curse. Everett was raised in the Baptist church in DeRidder, and the incident certainly doesn’t reflect the image that Everett would like to portray.
“At the time, I was obviously not thinking about the team and my responsibility as a member of the team,” the well-spoken Everett said. “I wasn’t being a team player. But the whole thing definitely taught me something. It taught me that your actions off the field do affect your team. I let my teammates and myself down. I missed workouts that I should have been at. People looked at me as a leader until the incident, and you see people talk about it and you know they look at you differently now.
“It is a big regret in my life, and it’s something I wish I could do so much differently now. But I definitely learned from it. It taught me to focus on my goals and keep a straight head and stay on the right path. If I could change it I would, but I just have to move forward and not let something like that ever happen again. I lost a half (in the first game of the year), but fortunately, I have more chances to make better impressions on people who are watching me.”
Everett made an immediate impression on everyone who was watching the A&M-Rice game on Aug. 31. The Aggies led the Owls, 28-21, at the intermission, and A&M had allowed Rice to gain 332 yards of total offense in the first half. When Everett made his 2013 debut in the third quarter, however, the A&M defense played with much more passion and energy.
One player really did make an immediate difference, elevating all of his teammates to a higher level. A&M held Rice to just 10 points and 177 total yards in the second half. Unfortunately for Everett, he wasn’t able to play the entire second half, as he was flagged for targeting Rice receiver Klein Kubiak (the son of Houston Texans head coach and former A&M quarterback Gary Kubiak).
Everett didn’t lead with his head, and although it was a hard, jarring hit, it easily could have been viewed as a legal hit. After the game, even Kubiak tweeted that it was just a “solid, physical football hit in my book.”
"I just want to be very encouraging to those younger guys...that’s how we are going to get better as a defense. We have to encourage one another and build off one another."
- Deshazor Everett
Nevertheless, Everett was flagged 15 yards immediately and then was required to leave the Rice game and miss the first half of the ensuing game against Sam Houston State. But in the aftermath of the victory over Rice, Everett received an idea of just how much support he was receiving from the A&M community.
On Twitter, “#FreeDeshazor” began “trending.” Hundreds upon hundreds of #FreeDeshazor tweets began appearing and being re-tweeted.
“It was later explained to me that the officials called it targeting—even after they reviewed it—because I didn’t use my arms and hands to wrap up (the receiver),” Everett said. “Of course, I had a broken thumb, and I didn’t use my hands as much when I had it in the cast. It was the first game back, and I was nervous to use my hand and hit somebody. I was trying not to use my broken thumb. When I got up and saw the flag I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, I hope they don’t throw me out.’ Then I was ejected. I wanted to make a positive impression so badly.
“But everyone was cheering as I walked off the field. I appreciated that from all the fans, but I didn’t know how to express my gratitude toward everyone because I was upset about being thrown out of the game. I got my first ‘FreeDeshazor’ tweet after the game, and then I re-tweeted it. Then I got another one and re-tweeted it. They just kept coming. Once it became trending, I was at a couple thousand re-tweets. It was crazy, and I really appreciated the support. I needed the (boost) from all the fans, and they really gave it to me.”
A&M fans were merely repaying Everett for the major boost he had provided them during the Aggies’ signature victory of the 2012 season. After bolting to a 20-0 first-quarter lead at No. 1 Alabama last Nov. 10, A&M came perilously close to losing the lead and possibly the game when the Tide rallied to pull within 29-24 and drove deep into A&M territory with under two minutes left in the game.
But on fourth-and-goal at the A&M 2, Everett intercepted A.J. McCarron with 1:36 left to play, preserving one of the greatest upset victories in A&M history. That play made Everett a household name among A&M fans. It also generated plenty of celebrations in western Louisiana.
“I think I broke my dang recliner when (Everett) picked that one off against Alabama,” Parmley said. “I was jumping up and pushing it back. I had to get it fixed. That was a big-time play. There was a lot of jumping and screaming all over DeRidder, I promise you that. Of course people in Louisiana don’t like Nick Saban, anyway, so everybody was celebrating that play.”
Thus far, Everett says that play against Alabama has been the highlight of his A&M career. The 21-year-old agricultural leadership and development major played mostly on special teams as a true freshman in 2011 and then started 12 games last season, recording 56 total tackles and two interceptions.
While it may be difficult to ever top the dramatics of the interception last year at Alabama, Everett is definitely playing at an even higher overall level this season. He can be a lockdown corner when the Aggies need him to take an opposing receiver out of the game plan or he can essentially play centerfield of the defense, making plays sideline to sideline at safety.
Predictably, Everett doesn’t care where the coaches play him. He will play wherever the Aggies need him. And he is adamant about the fact that he is merely one of the playmakers on the defense.
“I’m pleased with the way I have been playing, but I always want to keep my focus on the next game,” Everett said. “I can tell you I’m not the only playmaker on defense. I’m definitely not the only leader, either. Tony Hurd is a leader, Howard Matthews is a leader, Steven Jenkins is a leader, Kirby Ennis is a leader (even though he has been injured and lost for the season).
“We all have our roles, and I feel like when I’m making plays we start getting excited on the defense. But if other players make plays we get just as excited. I have a little more experience on this level than some of the guys who are playing on this defense, so I just want to be very encouraging to those younger guys, as well. That’s how we are going to get better as a defense. We have to encourage one another and build off one another.”
If the 6-foot, 185-pound Everett continues to improve at the same rate he has been since he arrive at A&M, there’s no doubt that he will eventually receive the chance to play in the NFL. He says he’d love that opportunity, and whenever his playing career is over, perhaps he will begin living up to his stepfather’s claim that he really can do it all.
“Whenever football is done once and for all, I think I might want to start a small sporting goods business and build it up from there,” Everett said. “I just like being around sports, not just football, but basketball and baseball, too. I want to try snowboarding one day or some extreme sports. I want to do a little motocross and maybe try wakeboarding. And skateboards and BMX bikes, too. I like doing all kinds of activities outside of just football.
“I love this game and what I am doing now, but maybe this is just the start of a multi-sports career.”
Perhaps so. After all, Deshazor Everett really does appear capable of doing it all.
“Oh boy, I have always told D many times that if you put God first you can do all things. All things,” said Bolden, who attends most all A&M home games with Everett’s mother, Monica. “He believes it, and oooohhhh yeah, he goes out there on the football field and everywhere else and proves it. Trust me on that one.”