The Wolverine

December 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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Page 66 of 75

DECEMBER 2020 THE WOLVERINE 67 BY JOHN BORTON S teve Everitt stands as a Michigan football iconoclast, in the truest sense of the word. He's an artist, but one who's re- duced 290-pound football opponents to heaving tears. He's a defiant in- dividualist with Thor-like flowing blond locks, who stood in awe when Bo Schembechler yanked him by them. He's a dad, brought to tears by the sight of his young daughter singing the national anthem at Michigan Sta- dium. Yet he's tough enough to hail an iconic touchdown against Notre Dame with a broken jaw. Everitt spent five seasons at Michigan, eight in the NFL and then never looked back, retiring to the Florida Keys. In the big picture, he looks back plenty. And does he ever have a story to tell. The All-Big Ten center sports five Big Ten championship rings. He never lost to Ohio State. He did all that after mak- ing his way out of his native Florida and venturing north into an unforgettable challenge. Most pegged him as a Miami Hurricane. Jimmy Johnson's Canes wanted him badly. So did Florida State, alma mater to his parents, Mike and Barb Everitt. But talk arose of Johnson bolting for the NFL. The South- ridge (Miami) High School Hall of Famer wasn't hearing much from the Big Ten. Sud- denly, everything changed, when he began getting letters from Michigan. "I was blown away," Everitt recalled. "I was actually getting letters from Notre Dame also, but I hated Notre Dame to the core. There's no way I would have ever gone to Notre Dame. "I was a crazy Hurricanes fan growing up, being from Miami. I re- member Miami winning the national championship in '83, and then going up to Michigan the next year and getting their ass kicked [22-14]. I was a little scared of Michigan — I just remember that as a kid. I always had that in the back of my mind." Everitt took a recruiting trip to U-M, discovering immediately what life would be like playing for a larger- than-life figure in aviator sunglasses. "On my recruiting trip, I was standing around in the coaches' of- fices, waiting to go into his office," Everitt recalled. "I didn't have long, long hair, like I have now. But it was kind of shaggy. "All of a sudden, I just get grabbed from behind and yanked by the hair, like hard — it almost took me to the ground. I turned around and Bo is like: 'We're going to have to do some- thing about THIS!' "I was too scared to even laugh. I was like, oh my god, did this just happen? This just happened!" Everitt recounts the meeting without a trace of misgiving, only wonderment and wide-eyed respect. His next trip to U-M, he sported a different look. "I went from surfer, long-haired, feathered, big hair, to a more accept- able look," he said with a laugh. "Not quite the crew cut Bo was looking for, but I got it all chopped off, because I was terrified, for sure." Everitt never stayed terrified for long. Still, Schembechler main- tained the capacity for engendering full attention. The true freshman never played a down for the Wolverines in 1988. But as the backup long snapper, he made every road trip for a 9-2-1 Big Ten champion squad, and figured to experience the Rose Bowl as well. That was before he got his "wires crossed" and showed up late for the last special teams meeting prior to the team's flight to California. "That's not what you want to do as a freshman," Everitt stressed. "I had to go in and plead my case to Bo, as the team is sitting there on the bus, waiting to fly to California. He was threatening to leave me behind. I was as close to sobbing as I've ever been in my adult life." He made the trip, but remem- bered the sensation forever. "Him grabbing my hair, and that feeling of being late to that meeting — there's just noth- ing like that feeling, growing in your stomach, when Bo is mad at you," Everitt mused. "Boy, that will turn you into a blubbering bowl of Jell-O." Michigan lost four starting offensive linemen after the 1988 season, and the U-M staff expected Everitt to step into the middle part of that gap. He'd been brought along well, he noted, by the likes of the late John Vitale, a fifth-year se- nior in '88. "I was so lucky to have John Vitale there," Everitt stressed. "John just took me under his wing from day one and pre- pared me. He just saw some- thing in me that made him think I was going to be the next guy up. "Some places aren't like that. The older guys don't treat the young guys right. It's like terrorizing, haz- ing, not like brothers. They're wor- ried about the young guys taking their jobs. There was none of that going on at Michigan." Prepared as he felt, toughness tests awaited — on and off the football field. Many remember the right-handed Everitt snapping left-handed through various injuries. Not many know why he did so the first time. The night before Michigan's spring game in 1989, good-natured fun in Everitt, a former All-Big Ten center, won five conference cham- pionships during his time at Michigan and proudly points out that he never lost to Ohio State. PHOTO COURTESY MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY   WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Steve Everitt Still Carves His Own Path

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