Tough Ravens lineman draws on his sensitivity Artist: Center Steve Everitt is a millionaire athlete whose talents are not limited to the football field.

July 28, 1996|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Steve Everitt lives a simple life, although figuring him out is anything but easy.

As the Ravens' center, Everitt makes his living amid the brutality that defines the line of scrimmage. Off the field, his struggles are cerebral, as he works to create serious art that satisfies him.

He gets equally animated discussing the surreal art of Salvador Dali, and the deafening art form of heavy metal rock 'n' roll. Mention KISS, the 1970s band remembered as much for its makeup and stage theatrics as its guitar riffs, and Everitt's eyes widen.

At 25 and entering his fourth NFL season, Everitt already is a millionaire, yet you'd never know it by looking at his wardrobe, in his driveway or around his small Owings Mills townhouse. He owns one suit, and recently purchased a second tie. He drives a Ford Bronco. He takes the greatest pride in his stereo system and large collection of compact discs. The pile is dominated by the likes of Metallica, Black Sabbath, Megadeth, Anthrax and Soundgarden. And mostly, of course, KISS.

Everitt, 6 feet 5 and 290 pounds, can be intimidating at first glance. His sullen, round face is marked with a light goatee and framed by long, unruly blond hair. But watch the kids who flock around him daily for autographs at Western Maryland College, the site of the Ravens' training camp. Then watch Everitt stand around until the last youngster has been indulged.

"Steve looks like Tarzan, like something out of the jungle, but he's a good, kind-hearted person," Ravens right tackle Orlando Brown said.

"Steve is an ultraconservative who looks like a counter-culturalist," said his father and business manager, Mike Everitt.

"He's the easiest person to get along with, really funny and easy to talk to. I can count on one hand the number of times he's yelled at me," said Amy Yorkoski, Everitt's longtime girlfriend. "I don't know that person who plays football. I've never met him."

Amy's Everitt is the smart, free-spirited guy -- he graduated in 1993 from Michigan, where they met six years ago, with a degree in fine arts -- with the dry wit.

Everitt does not have a split personality. It just seems that way.

How can a man involved in a profession so violent be the same man who shows such sensitivity with watercolors and a brush?

"It's weird. I've been doing them both [football and art] for as far back as I can remember, and they're both so natural for me," said Everitt, who has produced four limited-edition prints. "I remember loving art back when I played peewee football. By the time I started putting a portfolio together in high school, I figured that would be my job eventually. I see myself painting until the day I die.

"I get headaches when I'm working on something for a long time. I get as much satisfaction out of finishing something and actually liking it, as I get when we win a game or I win a one-on-one battle. It's not as physically draining as football, but it's the same kind of rush."

'A piece of work'

Mike Everitt knows that rush. As an accomplished wood sculptor who re-creates classic, vintage cars, he understands his son. Most of the time.

"His creative side and his violent side, it's such a dichotomy with Steven. That's him in a nutshell," Mike said. "It still dumbfounds me sometimes. He's a piece of work."

That much is obvious to his teammates, who have been collecting Everitt anecdotes since the day he arrived in Cleveland as a No. 1 draft pick out of Michigan three years ago.

Around the locker room, Everitt's hygienic practices have been the cause of some controversy. The same goes for his taste in clothing, which pretty much starts and ends with camouflage pants, T-shirts and old-fashioned high-top sneakers. Showers are strictly optional.

"When he was a rookie, he would not let me wash his shorts or his jockstrap. He said he had to wear them all year," said equipment manager Ed Carroll. "I told him I'm not going to wash them, I'm going to burn them. He has turf shoes that he'll wear on the plane, at home every night, and in the game. No socks. He's just a super, simple kind of guy. A throwback to the '50s or '60s."

Said guard Wally Williams, who broke in with Everitt as a free agent: "He's not exactly your Armani suit type. I've seen him in one sports coat, and he got that one free from Michigan. A team is a puzzle, and we all have our part. He is the wildest piece. But he's not a snob, like some guys who get drafted that high. He's a down-to-earth guy who hangs with us. He's one of the boys."

Brown also joined Cleveland as a rookie free agent in 1993. He immediately struck up a lasting friendship with Everitt.

"Steve is the first white guy I ever knew or trusted," said Brown, who was raised in Washington's inner city and attended all-black schools en route to the NFL. "We've grown together and gotten tight. He's one of the best centers I've ever met. He's also wild and crazy."

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