COLUMBIA — Everette Sands offered his sales pitch to the headmaster at Sea Island Academy, who was looking to buy some new computers for the school. Sands made a positive enough impression that the headmaster purchased the computers, then returned to the store where Sands worked a couple of months later, in June of 1995, with a pitch of his own.
Sea Island needed someone to coach football, teach math and computer science, the headmaster explained. He asked if Sands was interested. Sands didn’t mind selling computers, since he was a computer science major at The Citadel. You could make good money with that degree in the mid-1990s.
But ever since his junior year at The Citadel, where he starred as a running back, he envisioned himself ideally playing a couple years of pro ball, then getting into coaching. The pro career fizzled out after one training camp in 1994 with the Canadian Football League’s Baltimore Stallions. Sands returned to Charleston and got the job at the computer store, though he had no designs on making a life of it.
As it turned out, the job ended up launching his coaching career. Sands spent one season at Sea Island (now known as Charleston Collegiate School), then jumped to a college job, at Elon, where his running backs coach at The Citadel, Al Seagraves, had taken over. Now, after working at The Citadel, Ohio and North Carolina State, Sands is in his first weeks as South Carolina’s new running backs coach.
Sands hasn’t completely left behind the skills he learned selling computers. He uses them whenever he recruits.
“Being a salesman really helped on the recruiting side,” he said. “That’s really what recruiting is — selling. You develop a comfort level with talking to people that you don’t know.”
Sands, 40, is also young enough to remember seeing things from a player’s perspective. He ran for 3,926 yards and 34 touchdowns in coach Charlie Taaffe’s wishbone offense from 1990-93. He helped the Bulldogs win at South Carolina in 1990 and go 11-2 in 1992. Sands was such a “devastating runner,” as Taaffe said, that he was never lost a yard on a carry during his entire career.
After a couple of punishing runs during spring practice of his freshman year, he earned a nickname from his teammates: Sandman.
“Linebackers would try to tackle him, and he’d hit them and knock them out,” Taaffe said. “Probably 90 to 95 percent of Everette’s yards came between the tackles.”
In the locker room, Sands said little, but his presence was so respected that “when he looked at his teammates and gave them that stare, he didn’t have to say a whole lot,” Taaffe said.
When Sands jumped into the Sea Island job, he felt that motivating players was “natural for me,” but he was green as a coach, and his team finished 1-9. He has called Taaffe for advice often over the years, and when Sands got the chance to coaching running backs at Elon, Taaffe recalled telling him it was important that he “established himself as a recruiter.”
The Elon job allowed for that, since it was a full-time gig, rather than a graduate assistant non-recruiting position that many fresh-from-college coaches have to take. In recruiting, Sands leaned on his natural skills as a conversationalist.
He met his wife of 13 years, Yvette, in Atlanta in 1993. She attended Georgia, and after meeting, they spoke regularly on the telephone for six to eight months before seeing each other again.
“I started liking him after I talked to him (on the phone),” she said. “He could carry on a conversation. Everette is the elevator guy. You know how sometimes, you get on the elevator and strangers will just look at each other. Everette is the guy who will talk to you on the elevator. It happens every time Everette gets on the elevator.”
His first major conference job came last year, when he left The Citadel for N.C. State. In December, when he saw Jay Graham left USC to coach running backs at Tennessee, Sands remembered a conversation he and Yvette had a couple years ago. He said they agreed USC would be “one of the most ideal places to work,” because it is between his family in Conway and hers in Georgia.
But he didn’t pursue Graham’s old job, because, “I was very happy where I was.” Then USC assistant Steve Spurrier Jr. called and asked if he would be interested. Sure, Sands said. After USC’s bowl game, head coach Steve Spurrier called. Sands came highly recommended by offensive coach Shawn Elliott, who frequently crossed paths with Sands while working at Appalachian State from 1997-2009.
“You’re the kind of guy I like to hire because you didn’t call me and say that ‘I’m available,’ ” Spurrier recalled telling Sands.
This was just a slightly bigger opportunity than the Sea Island Academy headmaster walking into his computer store 17 years ago — and Sands couldn’t pass it up.
“This is the only one I would have left N.C. State for,” he said. “All the things that this can push me toward, I felt it was a great career move.”