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Life of a Saint: Jim Everett

Everett speaks about some of his early influences, the resurrection of his career in New Orleans and what former teammate he believes should be in the Hall of Fame.

New Orleans Saints v San Francisco 49ers Photo by George Rose/Getty Images

He was born in Kansas. He grew up in New Mexico. He attended college in Indiana and played the majority of his NFL career in California. Yet, Jim Everett still sits at number five on the all-time Saints career passing yardage list.

So how did Jim Everett and the city of New Orleans fit so well? One glaringly obvious thing they had in common was finding a “resurrection” of sorts within the walls of the Superdome.

Life of a Saint: Jim Everett

From an early age, Jim Everett was blessed with clarity. “Early on, I took the time to take a step back and say, ‘What do I want?’, and I wanted to be an NFL quarterback. I really did. I always said there were guys that had more talent than I, but there was no one that was going to outwork me”, Everett recalled. And while it may have taken a bit longer for some of his coaches to see things as clearly, head coach Jerry Hall and the staff at Eldorado High couldn’t deny Everett. Everett stated, “I really didn’t start quarterback until my senior year. I was also an all-state strong safety for two years. I knew I was a pretty good athlete, but I didn’t know about quarterback. I mean, my favorite guys were Lenny Dawson, Roger Staubach and Terry Bradshaw. I always had that quarterback flavor.”

Everett continued to speak about his path to the quarterback position, “I wasn’t like an Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning, someone who was groomed to be a quarterback from jump. I just loved the game, was a good athlete and could just throw the hell out of the ball.” He would eventually get that starting position behind center and led his Eldorado Eagles to a state championship, an accomplishment he still talks about with immense pride. “I go back to my high school team, winning the state championship, and I’m so proud of each one of those guys. We had eight guys from our team go Division I. We were a pretty dominant team. We shut out seven teams. I’ll never forget that. I think anytime a team wins a championship, at any level, it’s special.”

Everett’s play in high school would ultimately get him some national attention at the position.

Everett Selects Purdue

True to form, Jim Everett was very calculated about making the right choice to help him achieve his long-term goal. Everett shared, “I had categories: What was their campus like? What was the school like? I had, I don’t know, 26, 30 different categories of different items and I ranked them. At the end of the day, after all the schools that were recruiting me between Arizona, Arizona State, Texas, San Diego State, Stanford, etc., it came down to Purdue and Stanford.” His feeling of comfort at Purdue, along with the ties to his childhood idol, former Purdue alum Len Dawson, pushed Purdue over the top. The possibility of starting at quarterback at Purdue versus backing up John Elway in Stanford was also appealing.

Everett would start two years at Purdue, passing for over 7,000 yards and earning a trip to the Peach Bowl in 1984, despite the Boilermakers’ coaching staff initially wanting him to transition to become a tight end. He was quickly making his mark on the field, in part, due to his habits off the field. Everett lettered in four sports, each of which was carefully selected to help him achieve success on the gridiron. “You take wrestling, basketball and golf: golf was the mental part, the wrestling was the physical part and basketball was fun and kept me in shape”, Everett said. He then laughed as he shared a story about why he ended up stopping the wrestling, offering, “We had a 3-time heavyweight state champ and at the time you’d go from 185 pounds (his previous year’s weight) to heavyweight. I would have had to wrestle him and, again, he’s a three-time heavyweight all-state champ. I figured, ‘Yeah, I’m gonna try basketball.’”

Everett credits his father, Jerry Hall and Ernie Zampese as the biggest influences in the eventual realization of his dream to play in the NFL.

Everett Enters the NFL

Jim Everett was drafted with the third pick of the 1986 draft by the Houston Oilers. Not needing a quarterback with Warren Moon at the helm, Houston used the Everett pick as trade bait. Many suitors would inquire, but the Los Angeles Rams would ultimately win the services of the 6’5” Purdue product. Regarding the bumpy entrance into the league Everett shared, “The fact that Houston just drafted me to trade me was their call. I really didn’t sweat that part. I just wanted to get to a team. I had missed all of training camp. I just wanted to start contributing.”

After a couple of seasons of acclimation to the NFL, Everett and the Rams enjoyed some significant success. As to why, Everett jested, “With John Robinson coaching, it was a perfect situation for me. We had Eric Dickerson, a great offensive line and a playoff-caliber team. All I had to do was hand the ball off and then off to the playoffs we go.” But the modest Everett would play a huge role in the team’s success, posting gaudy passing numbers along the way.

You can’t think of Jim Everett during that period of time without thinking of Flipper Anderson. Saints fans know this all too well (Anderson set the all-time single game receiving record against the Saints with 15 catches for 336 yards receiving). But when asked, Everett shared that Anderson, although a dynamic receiver in his own right, was not his favorite target. “The guy I was most comfortable throwing the ball to was our ‘X’ receiver, Henry Ellard. I think he’s 15th on the all-time receiving list and still not in the Hall of Fame. I don’t understand why. The dude was unbelievable. The timing of his routes, the precision, I could throw the ball three or four steps before the break and know exactly where he was going to be,” Everett offered.

Everett Heads to New Orleans

The Rams moved Everett to the Saints in 1994 and the quarterback found new life in the change of scenery. For Everett, the move was welcomed. “I probably should have left a couple years earlier. I probably should have left when Chuck Knox came in. I just wasn’t his guy,” Everett recalled. He then added, “He (Knox) wanted to run the ball. He wanted to take NO chances. He wanted to win the games 10-9. That’s how he wanted to play but we didn’t have the personnel. The drafting from the time I got there until 1992 was just horrid. We didn’t have the talent to fill in for the older guys that left. In the 1990’s, the Rams were the least winning team in the NFL for a reason.”

Professionally, the change was welcome for Everett. What he didn’t count on, however, was the way he would be received by the city of New Orleans. Everett voiced, “When you come from one franchise to another, you never know how it’s going to go. The people of New Orleans were a blessing. It was the best experience of my life. That was after an event with a radio announcer and some stuff went down. At that point, I’m looking for resurrection in my career and the people were so positive and such a blessing. To this day, I think being in New Orleans even helped my Catholicism. It really is a special place for me.”

The Cast in New Orleans

If there were anything bad about his new team, it would have been that he missed out on a chance to play with legends like Rickey Jackson and Pat Swilling. “Sam Mills was there. We got one more year out of him and he was fantastic to play with. But all those defenses that had done so well for all those years, I thought I was going to have a chance to play with. All the sudden, they all start leaving,” said Everett.

But Everett couldn’t dwell on the negative too long without reverting back to the positive. He spoke about the privilege of throwing to guys like Quinn Early, Michael Haynes and Wesley Walls. He appreciated the efforts up front from legends like Willie Roaf and Jim Dombrowski. He also made mention of how lucky he was to play for a coordinator like Carl Smith and a head coach like Jim Mora.

Everett would finish up his 3-year stint in New Orleans with 10,622 passing yards, a mark which, again, has him sitting at fifth on the Saints career passing yardage leaders list. Not bad for a guy who is also the all-time leading passer in Rams history. Regarding individual accomplishments, Everett joked about his final season, which he spent in San Diego, sharing, “The only game I started for the Chargers was against New Orleans and we won. One of the media guys told me I was the only undefeated starter in Chargers history.”

Everett On Leaving the NFL

After that injury-plagued season for the San Diego Chargers in 1997, Everett knew it was time to walk away from the game he loved. “We had a coach in San Diego, Kevin Gilbride. It was his first and only year as an NFL head coach. After experiencing that, I was ready for another career. It wasn’t fun,” Everett stated.

Everett then spoke about how the timing of his career could have been a little better. He retired in 1997, right around the time when the NFL was changing rules focused on the safety of the quarterback. He exclaimed, “I was like, ‘Oh my God! I just experienced 12 years of getting my butt laid out and now you can’t get hit in the head or hit in the knees.’ They used to be able to be one step away from the quarterback and you could blow them up. That’s the NFL I know.”

While the back aches have never completely gone away for Everett, he moved on from the game to apply himself in arenas which are a lot less taxing on his body. Everett revealed, “I went back and got my MBA, had an asset management business for almost 15 years, and really had a good time and enjoyed it.”

Jim Everett the Hall of Famer?

Leave it to Jim Everett to modestly speak about another player (Henry Ellard) as being Hall of Fame worthy without mentioning himself. But looking at the numbers, Everett’s career 34,837 passing yards sits a bit below Jim Kelly and above Hall of Famers like Steve Young, Troy Aikman and Kurt Warner. When asked if he thought he had put together a Hall of Fame career, Everett finally gave himself some credit, stating, “My experience, to me, was Hall of Fame worthy. If they want to talk about who belongs in or out based on a Super Bowl ring, that’s fine. Not everyone is blessed with teams that are Super Bowl caliber. That’s just how it is. Trent Dilfer has a ring, but the fact is that he was blessed with a damn good team.” He then continued, “. I played the best I possibly could. I played as hard as I could have for my teammates. I’m totally satisfied. I was never worried about personal accolades when I was playing. I’m certainly not worried about personal accolades after. I just wanted to be the best I possibly could. We had some of the best teammates and had some great times.” Everett then laughed as he offered, “And now, I’m still having great times. Just follow my Twitter account (@Jim_Everett). You’ll see.”

Having great times, I guess that’s something else Jim Everett and the city of New Orleans have in common.