Hundreds of men have played for the Seattle Seahawks since the franchise's birth in 1976, but there are only four career Hawks who are worthy of enshrinement in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Two have already gotten in (Largent, Kennedy), and one will have a bust in Canton once he becomes eligible (Jones). The fourth member of this quartet may have to wait a while, but Kenny Easley is richly deserving of the immortality that comes along with a place in the Hall of Fame.
The biggest problem? Outside of the Twelve Army, Easley has already, sadly, been forgotten. When I wore his throwback jersey to a game at Indianapolis back in 2009, many drunken Fat Humps asked me "Who's Easley?" For those of you who might be too young to remember Easley, or if you just need a quick refresher on his exploits, check this out:
I was lucky enough to witness his career, and there's never been a more intimidating figure in team history (nope, not even Tez). Easley was a sure tackler, a ferocious hitter, and an elite ball-hawk. If you want the model for the upper limit of Earl Thomas or Kam Chancellor's careers, it's Kenny Easley. You have to be a historic, next-level bad-ass to pose for a poster like this and NOT look ridiculous (yes, I had this on my wall growing up in the Tri-Cities):
Easley was the first defensive superstar for a Seattle team that was known (if they were known at all) for offensive fireworks and special teams trickery. The 1st-round pick was named AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1981, and then AFC Defensive Player of the Year in 1983. Easley's career peaked in 1984, when he led a dominant Seattle defense with 10 interceptions and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. In all, Easley was named to the Pro Bowl five times and was honored as a 1st-team All-Pro four times. Most importantly, he was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 1980s. According to Pro Football Reference, Easley had a career similar to those of Hall of Famers Deion Sanders, Mike Haynes and Paul Krause, and future inductee Troy Polamalu.
Unfortunately, before the 1988 season Easley and the Seahawks had a spectacularly messy divorce. The team traded him to the Phoenix Cardinals for Kelly Stouffer (ugh), but the trade was voided when Easley failed a physical, which revealed he had a severely damaged kidney. Easley then sued the team, arguing that high doses of ibuprofen were responsible for his kidney damage. A financial settlement was eventually reached, but reconciliation between the Seahawks and Easley didn't come until after Paul Allen bought the team in 1997. In 2002 he was added to the Seahawks Ring of Honor, and in 2005 he raised the 12th Man Flag:
So why isn't this man in the Hall of Fame? He played in South Alaska for the Seahawks, and his 7-year career was relatively brief. There is little we can do about the first problem except hope a Seattle Super Bowl run makes Easley retroactively more appealing to Hall of Fame voters (Like what happened with Saints linebacker Rickey Jackson in 2010). Easley's brief career isn't (or at least it SHOULDN'T be) a barrier to his induction- Hall of Famers like Earl Campbell, Gayle Sayers, Dwight Stephenson, and Doak Walker also had relatively brief runs in the NFL. Easley's best chance to get in probably lies with increased success/national relevance for the Seahawks, followed by induction via the Seniors Committee (which considers players from the pre-1987 era). Given Easley's continuing health problems, hopefully this honor comes while he is still around to enjoy it.
What do you think, sirs? Do you have memories of Easley to share?