Finally, Cortez Kennedy is a Hall of Famer. His enshrinement is richly deserved- Kennedy was one of the greatest interior defensive linemen in NFL history, and one of the best overall defensive players of the 1990s. As I've said in this space before:
Sometimes I like to try to talk myself into the idea that Kenny Easley was the 3rd greatest Seahawk ever after Jones and Largent, but let's be frank: It's Tez. For an entire decade, he was a DOMINANT force in the middle for Seattle, stifling opposing rushing attacks and creating absolute chaos for enemy QBs. His litany of accomplishments is amazing- Here's the big ones:
-1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
This really had to been seen to be believed. Budding superstar Cortez Kennedy, drawing additional motivation from the untimely death of friend/University of Miami teammate Jerome Brown (Kennedy switched to #99 in honor of Brown for the 1992 season), dominated the middle and notched 14 sacks AS AN INTERIOR LINEMAN.
Kennedy did all this on one of the worst teams in NFL history- a 2-14 team that included an offense that CONSTANTLY left the defense to fend for itself (they scored an NFL record-low 140 points over the entire season). Despite playing for a terrible team with NO national exposure, Tez was so overwhelming in 1992 that he was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
-8-time Pro Bowler (2nd in Seahawks history, behind only Walter Jones' 9)
-3-time All-Pro (2nd in Seahawks history, behind only Walter Jones' 4)
-58 QB sacks (3rd in franchise history, 1st among Seahawks DTs)
A while back, Pro Football Reference made the case for Tez to be in the Hall of Fame... Clare Farnsworth did likewise. In a few years time, The Seahawks should have three players in Canton: Steve Largent, Walter Jones, and Cortez Kennedy.
This is a monumental achievement for Cortez Kennedy, and a joyous day for all Seahawks fans- But for those of us who survived the 1990s rooting for this team, this moment has added significance.
If you're a Twelve above a certain age, that means that you endured a sub-mediocre decade of football- One where you pulled for a team run by a buffoon who longed to steal your team away and spirit it off to Southern California. Ken Behring and his minions made DOZENS of terrible personnel moves during The Dark 90s, alienated fans constantly, and when given the chance tried to pull up stakes for Los Angeles.
If the Seahawks were your first love during this era, you weren't one of the cool kids- They were decked out in Sonics or Mariners gear. If you went to Seahawks games, you'd find the Kingdome half-empty or filled with the fans of our enemies. Home games were blacked out more often than not, and we were about as irrelevant as an NFL franchise could possibly be.
Through these times of tribulation, one man showed us what consistent excellence looked like game after game, year after year. One man righteously kicked ass and made the enemy fear SOMEONE wearing Seattle colors. This man didn't complain, he didn't demand trades, and he even refused to show up for Behring's comical L.A. minicamp in 1996, arguing that he signed a contract to play for the SEATTLE Seahawks. He wasn't a twisted malcontent like Charles Haley, either. He was a Superstar who was also, by all accounts, a model teammate.
Today, all of us who sat through 6-10 nightmare seasons, who lost sleep wondering if we'd lose our team, who were belittled and taunted for our allegiance to the Blue & Green... Today we can all proudly say that despite all that, we got to watch HALL OF FAMER Cortez Kennedy. One of the greatest players of all time, whose bust will be displayed in Canton as long as professional football exists, was OURS. The Forgotten Years, and everyone who survived them, are dignified now.
Thank you, Mr. Kennedy. I will be at your enshrinement this August, and if I get the chance I will thank you personally.
What do you think, sirs? Any memories of Tez to share?