CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — Moments after Donny Everett’s casket snapped shut, his entrance song came on.
“Answer to No One,” a modern country hit by Colt Ford, blared through Faith Outreach Church on Tuesday evening as a funeral congregation of approximately 500 sat in silence at Everett’s service.
I won’t back up, I won’t back down
I’ve been raised up to stand my ground
Take my job but not my guns
Tax my check ’til I ain’t got none
Except for the good Lord up above
I answer to no one
It was the song his family felt best symbolized his life, a precursor to the dozens of anecdotes that Vanderbilt baseball coach Tim Corbin and pitcher Collin Snider — among others — shared during the 90-minute event.
Everett, 19, passed away last Thursday after drowning at a lake in Coffee County, Tennessee, roughly 70 miles southeast of Vanderbilt’s campus in Nashville.
Tuesday evening — 50 miles north of Nashville off the same highway — Corbin and Snider were part of a large crowd that gathered to celebrate Everett, the teenager who turned down professional baseball to play for his dream school down the road.
“He was so lovable,” Corbin said, gesturing to Everett’s projected image behind him. “You see those pictures: If he’s not holding a fish, his arm is around somebody. His arm was even around his truck.”
Above everything else — that self-repaired truck, his model train set, Taco Bell — Everett’s love of baseball was the clear theme Tuesday.
The former Clarksville High star was considered by many to be the hardest-throwing prep pitcher in the Class of 2015, and reportedly turned down “$2.5 million or more” from multiple Major League Baseball teams last summer, according to CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman.
Instead, he enrolled at Vanderbilt, an NCAA baseball power that has churned out several Major League studs.
After sitting out the season’s first half with a lat injury, Everett made his Vanderbilt debut vs. Middle Tennessee State on April 12, with one fastball hitting 97 mph on the radar gun.
“I’m just really excited to be on the mound,” he said afterward. “It felt pretty good.”
He later hit 101 mph in a game against Missouri, and helped the Commodores reach the NCAA tournament before his death last week. Sunday, No. 1-seeded Vanderbilt was eliminated from its region, losing by a combined 24-9 score to Xavier and Washington on consecutive days.
“Beating grief at that moment for us was kind of Disney-movie stuff,” Corbin said in his eulogy. “It wasn’t gonna happen.”
While standing at attention during the national anthem of the team’s final game, Everett’s teammates left his spot on the field empty, a tribute that became a viral photograph as fans across the country mourned his passing.
Tuesday, Snider represented the Commodores players with a brief eulogy.
“There were many times where I would take my glove off after catching with him, and my hand would be bruised, and there were also times I thought my finger might’ve been broken,” Snider said, choking back tears. “But I never told Donny that, because I didn’t want to give him too much credit for it.”
Tennessean.com’s Adam Sparks reported that several Commodores now have tattoos memorializing their fallen teammate. Specifically, the inside of Snider’s left wrist now features the phrase “DE 41,” with Roman numerals underneath to mark the date of Everett’s death.
“When I bring my glove up right before I pitch, I can see Donny there,” Snider told Sparks. “And when people ask me what it means throughout my life, I’ll get another opportunity to tell someone about Donny.”
Corbin and Snider spoke for roughly 30 minutes combined Tuesday evening.
There were too many stories to recount here, among them: Everett’s tendency to pop out his retainer and set it down on the table before a fast-food meal; the time he purposely scared Corbin with a pair of high-and-tight fastballs during practice; and his assertion that Cold Ford is classical music (“It’s classic to me, coach”).
Corbin is known to ask his players, “Whaddaya got?”
Tuesday, he answered his own question.
“This is what I got, Donny,” Corbin said. “We love you deeply, and we’ll miss you for the time being.”