Thomas Everett wasn’t high on a lot of recruiting boards even though he excelled at every position he played at Daingerfield High School.
Most of his offers were from smaller schools like North Texas, SFA and Louisiana Tech. But Baylor assistant coach Bill Lane felt he could excel in the Southwest Conference.
“It’s not rocket science,” said Lane, who had previously coached at Daingerfield. “If you see an athlete and see him perform, you know if he could play or not. When you watched how he moved you couldn’t miss on him. We rode his wide shoulders for a long time.”
Everett emerged as arguably the best defensive back in Baylor history, becoming a two-time All-American and winning the first Jim Thorpe Award as a senior in 1986. He went on to a nine-year NFL career, playing on the Dallas Cowboys’ Super Bowl championship teams in 1992-93.
On Monday, Everett will be inducted into the SWC Hall of Fame at a ceremony in Dallas.
“It’s an honor and I’m blessed to be part of that group,” Everett said. “Being from Texas, I wanted to play in the SWC. Baylor was the only school that really came after me. You had to have coaches who didn’t mind making those drives in the piney woods to a small school.”
Everett was a multi-purpose player at Daingerfield who played quarterback, running back and defensive back. Baylor signed him as a running back but quickly moved him to cornerback as a freshman in 1983.
After eventual national champion BYU pounded the Bears 47-13 in the 1984 season opener, Everett switched from cornerback to safety before facing Oklahoma in the next game. Though the Sooners won 34-19 in Norman, Everett found the position that would make him a star.
“He was a phenomenal player and a great leader,” said former Baylor defensive coordinator Pete Fredenburg, now the head coach at Mary Hardin-Baylor. “He did a great job of reading offenses and making tackles. When we played option teams, he’d tackle the dive (back), the quarterback and the pitch.”
When the Bears upset No. 3 USC in Los Angeles in 1985, Lane recalled Everett blowing up the Trojans’ vaunted power sweep.
“They were down on our goal line and were trying to get the power sweep,” Lane said. “They said they could score on a brick wall on that sweep. They came with the whole parade, but Thomas flashed between two of them and hit the (back) up in the air and he landed on his head. He turned a complete flip.”
Everett made All-American in 1985-86 and finished his Baylor career with 325 tackles and 12 interceptions. He was also an excellent punt returner who averaged 9.58 yards on 80 career returns.
He was honored as the best defensive back in the nation when he won the inaugural Thorpe Award in 1986.
“Being the first one chosen, maybe I’ll be the answer to a trivia question,” Everett said. “But I never thought about awards. We were able to go to three bowl games while I was there and we won two. Coach (Grant) Teaff was a legend and I had the opportunity to play with really good football players who weren’t highly recruited coming to Baylor.”
Selected in the fourth round of the 1987 draft, Everett played for the Pittsburgh Steelers for five years. But after a contract dispute, Everett was traded to the Cowboys where he became a key member of the secondary for back to back NFL championship teams.
In the 1993 Super Bowl, Everett intercepted two passes as the Cowboys romped to a 52-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.
“They outbid all the teams to get me, so it was in the game plan,” Everett said. “I already lived in Dallas. Dreams do come true and they are real. Getting two interceptions and winning two Super Bowls were amazing.”
Everett finished his NFL career in 1995 following two seasons with Tampa Bay. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 and still lives in the Dallas area where he trains athletes.
“I’ve been working with youth since I retired,” Everett said. “I do a lot of group training and camps in the summer, and I do some evaluation of high school athletes throughout the country. I want them to reach fitness and health goals, whatever areas and needs they are seeking.”