Kevin Everett signed about 300 autographs last night at the Ed Block Courage Awards banquet at Martin's West. Afterward, he waggled his tired right wrist and smiled. It was, he said, a good hurt.
"That was a workout - for my hand," said Everett, the Buffalo Bills tight end who fractured his spine in a football game in September - an injury initially believed likely to leave him paralyzed.
But Everett is recovering, and though he'll never play football again, he has become a hero to others. A number of those moved by Everett's story got his autograph at the Block Awards, which honor players from each NFL club who are voted most inspirational by their teammates.
"Oh, you're the miracle guy!" Lynn Winkler exclaimed upon reaching the front of the line. Then the Fallston resident leaned toward Everett, who was seated at a table, and asked, "Do you have faith in God, Kevin?"
"Well, he has his hand all over you, buddy," she said.
Again, a nod.
"Welcome back to football, Mr. Everett," said Ron Meliker of Ellicott City. "Everyone was holding their breath for you, sir."
Everett's fellow award-winners expressed admiration.
"To me, Kevin is the truest recipient of this award, hands down," said the Cleveland Browns' Gary Baxter, a former Raven. "Several of us have been in uncharted waters, pushing the limits of medical science. But he's the real miracle, proof that God has plans for all of us."
Scott Lynn stood in line for 30 minutes to get Everett's autograph - not for himself, but for the 11-year-old son of a friend, Kevin Lawyer, a Carroll County orthodontist killed in an auto accident last month. Lynn thought it important that the youngster recognize the courage of others facing rough times.
Next came Mark Odum, 53, of Bowie. He approached Everett in a wheelchair, having broken his neck in a diving accident more than 30 years ago. Odum remains paralyzed from the waist down."
"How's it goin'?" Odum asked.
"Goin' good," Everett said.
"What's left [to recuperate]?"
"My hands," Everett said. Numbness persists.
"We're cheerin' you on, man," said Odum, motoring right along.
As he left, Odum shot the football player a telling glance.
"Stuff happens," Odum said softly. "What matters most is what you do after it happens."