Buffalo Bills tight end Kevin Everett was asked Wednesday how much weight he could lift on a bench press.
"I did like 315 pounds the other day," Everett responded without the slightest expression on his face.
After the four people in the room with him lifted their jaws off the floor, Everett broke into a big laugh.
"No, I'm just kidding," Everett said. "I just get light weights and work on fine-tuning myself."
It's a sign of Everett's remarkable recovery that he can crack such a joke about his conditioning.
Everett continues to make great progress from the catastrophic spinal cord injury he suffered six months ago on the turf of Ralph Wilson Stadium. He looks fantastic, carrying 240 pounds on his 6-foot-4 inch frame. He says he feels great. He now can walk continuously on a treadmill for 1 1/2 to 2 miles.
"I want to let people know that through the blessings of God, anything can happen," Everett said in an interview with The Buffalo News.
Everett came to town to promote his new book, "Standing Tall: The Kevin Everett Story." He will appear for a book signing at 7 tonight at the Barnes & Noble store, 1565 Niagara Falls Blvd., Amherst.
"The main reason for me doing the book is I want to inspire a lot of people and let them know there's hope, no matter how difficult the situation is," Everett said. "Just have faith in God and believe."
The last several weeks have been a whirlwind for Everett. He appeared on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in late January. He attended the Super Bowl with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Feb. 3, and he has been traveling on a book tour with his fiancee, Wiande Moore. The two are going to be married in April. They're keeping the exact date and location secret.
"People write to me, and they just say, 'It's a miracle. How did you do it?' " Everett said. "I just say, 'It's God's doing, not mine.' "
Everett says he never totally lost faith that he would walk again, even in the terrifying days immediately after he suffered a fracture dislocation in his neck and a severe spinal cord injury while making a tackle in the Bills game against the Denver Broncos on Sept. 9.
"That's just me, man," he said. "I don't give up, no matter what it is I'm doing. I give it my all, and I'm always positive. I don't try to be negative about nothing."
Everett had limited movement in his body three days after the accident, and he was transferred to Houston's Memorial Hermann Hospital 12 days after it happened.
"I had no doubt Kevin would walk again and get better, just because of how I know him," said Moore. "Knowing Kevin, he never gives up, and I knew this wouldn't stop him from getting up and doing what he normally does."
The first day Everett actually walked with assistance, in late October, is a moment Everett and Moore never will forget.
"It was amazing," Moore said. "We started crying tears of joy. It was truly a blessing to see him walking again."
"I was using a walker they adjusted to my height," Everett said. "It had wheels on the bottom. I had to focus really hard. It was physical, but it was more mental than it was physical. I had to really just think about moving one leg and moving the other and controlling my core [midsection] and keeping stable. I went about 30 feet."
Everett said he goes to Memorial Hermann's rehabilitation center three times a week for three hours a day to receive therapy. He said he walks on a treadmill for about 20 to 25 minutes at a time.
"It's like a normal workout of anyone else," he said. "They're just retraining my muscles, retraining everything. Now I'm at a stage where I'm working on my endurance and building up my physical levels."
Everett walks without any apparent sign of difficulty, but he's not ready to try running, and balance can be a challenge while exercising. The biggest physical challenge he faces is with the dexterity of his hands.
He can again brush his hair, use utensils and hold a glass. But he still has numbness in his hands and it's difficult to tell how hard he is gripping things.
"Due to the level of my injury it affected my arms and hands the most, more than any other part of the body," Everett said. "When I'm picking up something, I can drop it. That's going to take awhile to come back. . . . It may take a year or two or three to come back. It may never change. I'm getting better at it, but it's not there."
Everett said he is overwhelmed by the response he has received from Bills fans and from people all over the world. He said his garage is filled with bags of letters he has received.
"It will take a couple of years to get through it all," he said. "I never thought in a million years that many people would reach out to me. They did, and I'm here to tell you it helped me out a lot -- all the cards and e-mails and messages."
Everett takes just as much strength from the other patients with spinal cord injuries he has met in the hospital and the rehab clinic.
"They say I inspire them, but they don't know how much they inspire me," Everett said. "They work so hard every day. A lot of people, their situation is totally different. They may never walk again. But just to see the good attitude they have and the positive attitude they have on life, it sends chills up your spine just to see that people are still happy, knowing the fact they'll never be the same as they were before their accident. People come in every day who have been in car accidents or have fallen off ladders. You get the opportunity to talk to them and it inspires me."
Everett doesn't know exactly what the future holds for him. He may want to open a restaurant some day. He may want to get into football coaching, but not any time soon. He seems to sense he has an opportunity to impact people's lives.
"That's later on down the line," he said of coaching. "I need to get myself established in something else. God is telling me it's time to hang up the football for awhile and focus on something else. I'm getting different opportunities every day. So many people call and want me to make appearances. I'm just praying about it and trying to make the best decision I can."e-mail: email@example.com