One look at the first play on Keziah Everett’s junior year highlight video – even though it didn’t occur at Everett’s primary position – should be enough to excite East Carolina fans about the future Pirate.
Everett is a defensive tackle at Farmville Central High School, located just about 15 miles from the ECU campus. The 6-foot-2, 314-pounder, who is part of a strong in-state class of interior defensive linemen, gave his verbal commitment to the Pirates on June 18 in a theatrical ceremony at the Farmville Central football stadium.
We’ll get back to that later.
But first, the video, which shows Everett lining up at tight end – yes, tight end – in the ninth game of the 2017 season against Southwest Edgecombe. Attached to the the right side of Farmville Central’s formation, Everett sprang out of his stance and cut left across the field and into the open, where he hauled in a pass at Southwest’s 40-yard line. He bowled over two defenders before another one knocked him out of bounds at the one-yard line to complete a 59-yard play.
“Sometimes it’s really not fair when you have a guy 314 pounds who can run in the high 4.8 or 4.9s (in 40-yard dash),” Farmville Central coach Scott Gardner said. “But that’s kind of the way it’s been for him since middle school.”
Middle school is when Gardner first encountered Everett, who was then an intimidating 270-pound running back. But it was upon Everett’s arrival at Farmville Central as a freshman that his career on the defensive line was jumpstarted due to an injury.
Gardner expected Everett to play on the junior varsity until a varsity defensive end went down with an injury in the preseason. Everett’s size made him an ideal candidate for the position, but Gardner was concerned about his inexperience.
“I think after a couple of scrimmages we decided we’d pull him up and play him at defensive end Friday night,” Gardner said. “He was our leading tackler that night. To make a long story short, he’s never come off the field again.”
After an impressive debut season, Everett developed into a true defensive force the next two years when he earned first-team All-Pitt County honors from The Greenville Daily Reflector. Everett earned that honor as a sophomore after making 109 tackles, 15 tackles for loss and eight quarterback sacks. He repeated those all-county accolades last season when he made 79 tackles, 18 tackles for loss and four sacks, despite missing four games with an injury.
But Everett’s athletic success hasn’t been limited to the football field. He’s also become one of the state’s top performers in the shot put. Everett set the state 2-A record with a toss of 53 feet, 8.50 inches during the regional meet in May, then posted a second-place finish at the state championships with a 52-foot effort.
“He’ll be favored to win the state (shot put) next year,” said Gardner, who also coaches Everett in track.
But it’s on the football field where Everett’s athletic ability is best displayed, according to Gardner.
“We’ve had some good defensive linemen here, but never a defensive lineman who can run and has the skill set he has,” Gardner said. “He catches the ball out at tight end, he can play H-back, and this year he’ll play some nose (tackle). He can throw the ball, too. We flipped one to him last year and he threw it into the end zone for a touchdown pass.”
East Carolina made Everett one of its priorities in this recruiting class, and that attention paid off when he announced for the Pirates over other finalists North Carolina and Virginia. Appalachian State, Duke and South Carolina had also offered scholarships.
The Tar Heels made a late charge for Everett, which created some suspense as people gathered at the Farmville Central football field on June 18 to hear his decision. Everett first sat at a table where caps from ECU, Duke, UNC, South Carolina and Virginia were placed. He then stepped away from the table and entered the portable tunnel through which the Jaguars enter the playing field on game nights.
With gold smoke being released at the tunnel’s exit, Everett emerged holding a flag bearing the ECU mantra, “No Quarter.”
“He had gotten it down to Carolina, Virginia and ECU,” Gardner said. “I think he really thought about going to Virginia. Then Carolina turned up the pressure on him and there was some concern around Greenville he might be going to Carolina. But the relationships he built with everyone at East Carolina pushed all that away.
“Coach Montgomery made him feel like a high priority by coming by our school as often as he could. They put the maximum effort in being at our school and talking to him.”
Everett is the first defensive tackle and second defensive lineman to join ECU’s 2019 class. The Pirates received a commitment earlier this month from Hemingway, S.C., defensive end Darius Williams.