Hard work, toughness help Everett climb depth chart

The first overall pick in this year’s spring game player draft was neither a household name, nor a scholarship player.

It wasn’t a quarterback, another skill player or even a Hoosier with a full season’s worth of starting experience.

It was Gavin Everett, a walk-on defensive end from Center Grove. After starting his college career at Western Illinois, then transferring to Indiana, Everett toiled on the Hoosiers’ scout team before surfacing on the depth chart late last season. He followed with a strong spring, leading to his selection atop the Cream and Crimson draft board. For Everett, it was deserved recognition.

Indiana has players more naturally gifted than the 6-foot-3, 260-pound redshirt junior, but equal parts toughness and attention to detail have allowed Everett to climb the Hoosiers’ depth chart in recent months. As IU assembles its two-deep for the Sept. 1 season opener at Florida International, Everett remains in the mix to rotate onto the defensive line, cashing in on an opportunity that only a few years ago didn’t seem within reach.

“He’s not the most athletic guy we have out there,” defensive line coach Mark Hagen said, “but he’s tough. He’s athletic enough to give us good, quality snaps. He’s just one of those guys that does everything right.”

That tool set served him well in high school, when Everett was a team captain and all-state caliber player at Center Grove. But recruiting interest was lukewarm, at best. There were some NAIA-level opportunities, including some interest from Marian, but not much else.

Western Illinois was the only Division I program to offer Everett, who accepted a spot in the Missouri Valley Football Conference in 2015. But during a year on the WIU sideline, Everett realized the Football Championship Subdivision program wasn’t the right fit for him.

“I wanted to come home and play in my home state and fulfill my childhood dream of playing D-I football here at IU,” Everett said.

Center Grove coach Eric Moore, a former IU player during the Bill Mallory era, vouched for Everett and helped him land the walk-on opportunity during spring practice in 2016.

“Guys that come through that Center Grove program, you know what those guys are all about,” Hagen said. “We welcomed Gavin with open arms. We weren’t sure what he would bring to the mix, but he’s a guy that’s come out every day and worked hard, building his way up the depth chart.

“Losing Robert McCray and having Brandon Wilson bump inside and help us at that three-technique position, he took advantage of it this spring.”

For Indiana, it was a continuation of what Everett brought to the field during the final third of the 2017 season. Everett played in nine games, making his presence felt late in the fall. He surfaced with a half-sack and two tackles during a November victory at Illinois, before closing the year with two tackles and a forced fumble in the Old Oaken Bucket Game.

“I think my effort and my consistency kept showing up on film,” Everett said about what allowed him to climb IU’s depth chart. “I’m not the most athletic guy on the defensive line. We’ve got some great talent. But (Hagen) knows what he’s gonna get on every play. I’m gonna give it my all on every play.”

Hagen and IU coach Tom Allen weren’t the only ones to notice.

“Gavin has always been a guy that was just a workhorse, a crazy workhorse,” defensive tackle Mike Barwick said. “He’s always working, grinding.”

Fellow end Nile Sykes said, “He didn’t talk that much. He just worked hard. Gavin’s always done what is asked of him. He always does what coaches ask perfectly. He’s been a perfectionist in all he’s done. He just works hard and he’s earned everything he’s gotten thus far.”

More opportunities are still to come for Everett, who will split snaps at strong-side end this season. In the meantime, Everett is intent on showing that the work he put into earning his way onto the field isn’t going away now that he’s found his niche.

“Gavin is one of those individuals we’re gonna lean on,” Hagen said. “He’s a guy I trust. He’s tough and physical and you always know what you’re gonna get from him on the field.”

3 comments

  1. Good story about one of the players that flashed at the end of the year. Walk-ons that work hard can develop into D1 Players and Everett is showing this. It was fun seeing him on the field especially in the late part of the year as he played more and more downs.

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