Everhardt means playing tough for Happy Valley

Photo by Kristen Luther
Jack Everhardt (left) is a former Happy Valley player while Michael Everhardt (right) is a player on this yearÕs Warrior team.

By Jeff Birchfield
Never judge a book by its cover, and never tell an Everhardt he's too small to play football.
Neither of the two Everhardt brothers who have donned Happy Valley uniforms in recent years is among the tallest, heaviest or bulkiest players to play a top Warrior Hill, but they have to be among the toughest.
Two years ago, Jack Everhardt was one of HVHS's most reliable pass receivers. Despite standing 5-5, he was a player not afraid to go over the middle and take punishment after catching the ball.
"I knew I was going to get hit, but it was well worth the hit," said Jack, who wore No. 88 his senior season. "To be able to attempt to get the yards downfield and to block downfield for the running backs, that was pretty fun."
Younger brother Michael is one who likes dishing out those hard pops on receivers, playing strong safety for the Warrior defense.
"Jack was an offensive specialist," said Michael, who wears jersey No. 19. "I never really wanted to play much offense and Jack didn't really want to play defense. It has worked out pretty good.
"The hits are really good. I like our defense because you can put anybody in at any position and they will give it their all. That's what our team has this year: a lot of heart."
Happy Valley head football coach Stan Ogg sees some parallels between the two siblings.
"They both play very hard," said Ogg. "They really know only one speed and that's full speed. I see a lot of similarities, although Michael plays a different type of position. Michael really doesn't have the size to play where he's playing, but he does because how he's worked at it.
"He's one of the strongest 140 pounds that you will ever find. He does 180 percent of his weight in bench strength and 300 percent in squat strength. You put a 200-pound body with that and people would be in awe."
Ogg also pointed out the brothers do show some differences in their approach to the game.
"Jack played mainly offense and Michael plays defense," said Ogg. "Jack was a good pass catcher and a good downfield blocker. We ran the ball more when Jack played and were more of a triple option team. We had to have people on the corner to block and he did a nice job with that.
"Michael has worked his way into a defensive position. He's better on defense. He's one of the best tacklers we've ever had. His fundamentals are really sound. He doesn't miss a lot of tackles."
Jack talked of what he took from playing for Ogg and the other coaches atop Warrior Hill.
"They were always pushing us hard to make us the best that we could be," Jack recalled. "They wanted us to be number one to the ball, to give 100 percent every play and never let down. We were to have the intent of being number one."
The boys grew up as "Army brats" spending most of their time near military bases where their father served as a PLDC (sergeant school) instructor. Their childhood was spent in places such as Ft. Campbell, Ky., Ft. Polk, La. and a favorite spot of Hawaii. They came to Northeast Tennessee when their father took a job as the local Army recruiter.
"It was very interesting when we lived in Hawaii," said Jack. "There were all kinds of fish. Every day after school we would go to the beach, swimming and doing things. Playing soccer was the main thing we did on the military bases instead of football."
They are the sons of Jack Everhardt, Jr. and Dorothy Everhardt, with the younger Jack officially named Jack the III.
The lifestyle of moving around helped the boys adapt to different situations and make them mentally tough, traits that have served them well on the gridiron.
"It made me get used to change," said Michael. "I was used to changing friends all the time. When I got here at Happy Valley, (Daniel) Dover, Brandon and Lance Whitehead all took me under their wing. We all played football and became good friends."
Michael is enjoying his senior season as a Warrior, but is keeping busy. Besides school and playing football, he has a part time job as well. He along with the Whitehead boys all headed to work at McDonald's in Hampton the day of our interview.
For Jack, his playing days and school days are behind him. Now in the "real world" working third shift as Superior Industries, he admits to missing being a part of the action on game night.
"I miss playing every time I come to the football game," Jack commented. "Even when I see a middle school game, watching them, I remember all the things that went on when we were younger. It was exciting and fun, especially playing with my brother.
"Playing with my brother was interesting because we pushed each other to be better. We always wanted to be number one between us, but we never put each other down. We always pushed each other and the team to be number one."
The game he most remembers was the school's first ever win over Elizabethton in 2000.
"My favorite game didn't come here at Happy Valley," said Jack. "It was when we beat Elizabethton. That game made us the head honchos over Elizabethton that season. It was a pretty big thing around here. It was something special, seeing everybody on that field the night that we won."
Michael's favorite game from a personal standpoint also was against the Cyclones.
"I would say Elizabethton last year was my most memorable game," said Michael. "I know we lost, but I got to play a lot and had a real good game. I think I stood out in that game more than any other.
"As a team, it was hard to beat last week's win against Unicoi. All the papers coming in said that they were real good, but we did pretty good against them."
The folks at Happy Valley are certainly glad the Everhardt family relocated to this area. They have been blessed to have two young men, whose mental toughness and full speed approach to the game, have helped to strengthen their teams and the Warrior football tradition.