Jim Everett was a star on both sides of the ball at Eldorado High School in Albuquerque, N.M. As the starting quarterback and safety he led the school to its first state championship in 1980.
Everett took his considerable talents to Purdue University where he fully committed to the quarterback position. His senior season was a revelation as Everett led the NCAA in total offense, set numerous school records and finished sixth in the 1985 Heisman trophy voting.
The star quarterback was selected with the third pick in the first round of the 1986 NFL Draft by the Houston Oilers. Unable to come to terms, the Oilers traded his rights to the Los Angeles Rams.
The big, handsome signal caller was a perfect fit in Los Angeles. He had an incredibly productive and underrated career with L.A. and New Orleans and finished his career with a short run with the Chargers.
Everett passed for a career-high 4,310 yards in 1989. He led the NFL in passing touchdowns in 1988 and 1989 and was named a Pro Bowler in 1990. Over the span of his career, Everett passed for nearly 35,000 yards and more than 200 touchdowns, making him one of the most consistent and productive quarterbacks of the era.
In this exclusive interview with Tony Reid, Everett reflects on seeing his 1987 Topps RC for the first time, memorable autograph experiences with teammates and what memorabilia he held on to from his 12-year NFL career.
The sports card and memorabilia market has boomed in recent years. What has your experience been like recently?
The card business has absolutely boomed. It has been almost 30 years since I played. We would get mail and collectibles to sign but I swear my mail has gone up 10 times over the last three years. I have a stack right here. I have my daughter help fill it out for me. We like to try to return everything. When you say it’s booming, it’s booming at all different levels from all different collectors. It’s fascinating to watch. I guess Covid had everybody in the house and people rekindled their old hobbies.
As a star athlete from a young age, when were you first asked for your autograph?
My first signature was probably in high school. I was a two-time all-state safety before I was a quarterback, believe it or not. I was all-state safety my junior and senior years. I played both ways. At that point we went to the annual banquet and somebody asked me to sign the program. I didn’t really think about it. I signed it. My dad had the coolest signature. I wanted to have a nice one. I practiced it. I really did. I wanted to take it seriously. If someone is asking for my autograph, I didn’t want it to look like third-grade writing.
What was the most memorable signature you ever gave out?
My most fun autograph story was when I was playing with the Rams. We got this rookie receiver named Willie Anderson that comes in. For $100 we used to go play charity basketball. For $100 for the night you would go play basketball against your local police force or local school or other charities. You would get the Rams team to come out. We would generally dominate most of the teams we played. I was sitting next to Willie. I’m sitting there signing my name and I look over and I said, ‘Rookie, what are you doing?’ He was signing his name ‘Willie Anderson.’ I said ‘Dude, you are Flipper.’ From that moment on, he started writing ‘Flipper.’ We were just at an autograph show a few months ago and he said, ‘Dude, it was at that point that you made it happen.’ It was crazy fun times. That was for his signature. His momma or aunt called him ‘Flipper,’ but as far as the signature on each one of his cards going forward, I guess if you got a ‘Willie Anderson’ signature at one of those basketball games they would be even more collectible.
Were you ever on the other end of the spectrum as a kid asking pro ball players for autographs?
Oh, sure. We had the Albuquerque Dukes. We used to go watch all of their games. They were the Triple-A baseball team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. At the time, ‘The Penguin’ was playing there, so I got Ron Cey’s autograph for sure. We had UNM basketball team and down in the pit was big time. My dad was a professor at the University of New Mexico and Michael Cooper was playing, so I got his autograph. For Albuquerque we didn’t really have a plethora of talent come through there all the time. When we had good guys come in, for sure I got autographs.
Your 1987 Topps was your official Rookie Card. You were even tabbed a ‘Super Rookie’ by Topps. Do you remember the first time you saw yourself on a trading card?
I remember seeing that card specifically coming out. That look on my face, it was like, ‘Damn, coach. Put me in. We are losing again (laughs).’ Can’t they get me one smiling after I started? Holy shit.
I look back at that time, Coach Robinson held me out eight weeks before he started me. I was chomping at the bit after about five weeks. Every true competitor doesn’t want to sit there and watch. We were in New Orleans and I think we lost 10-7. I know I can score more than seven points! I’m not overly confident but I am confident. Put me in, coach. That’s the hard part when you have 22 positions and special teams on the field. Each one of those guys wanted to play. Especially in pro sports, each one of those guys played their entire lives. For them to be on the bench is really an adjustment. Some of them handle it better than others. I know when I went from the Saints to San Diego I wasn’t a good backup. I really didn’t enjoy it. I liked playing but being ready at a moment’s notice, that takes a special talent.
From official calculations, you have 762 different cards. Did you manage to hold on to any of them that you got?
I believe I have every single one of them. When we got cards they would send us the whole set. My collection is pretty good. They are all intact in original packaging.
I have a fan, Jeffery, in New Orleans and he has every one of them and more. He is a super fan. It’s unbelievable the stuff he collects.
What is your favorite card?
The one that means a little bit more to me has to do with studying. It’s about education. My parents both were in education. My dad was a professor at the University of New Mexico and my mom was a resource room teacher. In our household we valued education. There was the one card that says ‘Study’ and has me looking downward. That is a family favorite.
To me, that is what our whole family has been about, improving, getting better and using your mind and education. They are all absolutely true. Even if you can pay football there comes a time when you can’t play football. You better have something in mind and have that groomed as you are ready to move on to that next thing that might be as physical.
You had an outstanding 12-year career. You were a Pro Bowler. You threw for 200-plus touchdowns. You threw for a pile of yards, leading the league in multiple categories on more than one occasion. Do you have an office, a room or man cave where you have memorabilia from your great run displayed?
That’s a good question. I have some. I used to have a lot more when I had my other house. I have all of those things in storage.
Going back to the 200 touchdowns, I think Tom Brady hit 600. To put it in perspective, there is no way with the rules we played with pre-1997 that you could survive 600 touchdowns. There is no physical way. The rules and opponents when we played — and this is why the NFL changed it and I think it is good for the game — but we also have to look at it in context, they wanted to cause physical damage to the starting quarterback that way they have a better chance to win. The opponents had card blanche access to do it. If they were a foot away from you, ball or not, they could still hit you — in the head, in the knees, and I have three new body parts to prove it. It was a different era.
I totally respect the game and the players who play now. If we are looking at quarterbacks through the league there are some guys playing now that could survive when we played. Patrick Mahomes could not do what we did. He would get broken. He really would. Rob Johnson, who is a good friend of mine, is a smaller built guy who had a good arm but he got broken too many times. When you look at it, you had to be built a little different than in today’s game.