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pakowitz 04-02-2003 10:09 AM

Saints' Everest climbs to top of special teams list

This is an expanded online report
News-Star news services
Posted on April 2, 2003
New Orleans Saints special teams coach Al Everest was recently voted by his peers as the NFL Special Teams Coach of the Year.

The annual award, which is sponsored by Professional Kicking Services, is decided in a ballot of the league's special teams coaches.

"This is a great honor for Al," said Saints coach Jim Haslett. "This is a tribute to the hard work Al has put in over the last three years to improve our special teams and also to the players who make up those units."

Everest, who arrived in New Orleans with Haslett in 2000, captured the award after completing his third season with the Saints.

"That he was chosen in a vote by his peers makes it even more rewarding for him and for all of us," Haslett said. "Under his guidance, our special teams have really evolved into one of the league's best --- from our kicking game to our coverage units."

The club's special teams units enjoyed a banner season in 2002, with kick returner Michael Lewis and coverage ace Fred McAfee elected to the Pro Bowl and kicker John Carney setting a team record with 130 points.

Lewis established a new NFL record for combined kickoff and punt return yardage with 2,432 yards and set team single-season records for kickoff return yardage (1,807) and punt return yards (625).

Lewis was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week following a two-touchdown performance vs. Washington on Oct. 13. In the contest, Lewis became the first player in club record books and only the seventh player in NFL history to return a punt and a kickoff for a touchdown in the same game.

McAfee was voted to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his 11-year career. After forcing an interception for a touchdown in overtime against Tampa Bay in the opener by breaking up an attempted punt, McAfee earned NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors (Sept. 8).

And after blocking a key punt at Carolina (Nov. 10), Steve Gleason also clinched NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors, giving New Orleans three winners of the award last season.

Carney booted 31-of-35 field goal attempts, tying the team record in field goals.

In addition to the club's outstanding individual performances on special teams, Everest turned a legion of speedy tacklers into the best punt coverage unit in franchise history. New Orleans allowed a mere 5.5 yards on 38 returns, the lowest return average in team record books.

A 31-year coaching veteran, Everest has coached at the high school, college and NFL level. He joined the Saints after four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals, where he was also recognized for molding one of the top special teams units in the NFL.

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