Seahawks Insider

Great day for a great guy

Post by Dave Boling / The News Tribune on Feb. 4, 2012 at 4:42 pm with 23 Comments »
February 4, 2012 4:42 pm

I first talked to Cortez Kennedy on the day the Seahawks drafted him. I reached him by phone at his Arkansas home, where a party was under way. Over the next 11 seasons, I’m not sure I ever got a really good quote out of him. He was always a mannered gentleman and cooperative, but he was so humble and eager to avoid attention. Especially in the early 90s, he played defensive tackle as few ever had. He was well-deserving of his Hall of Fame honor. Here’s my column on it for the Trib:

 

By Dave Boling

 

For much of his career with the Seattle Seahawks, Cortez Kennedy stood head and shoulders above the NFL’s corps of defensive tackles.

Because of his level of dominance, that head and those shoulders will now be cast in bronze and placed in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this summer.

The Hall selection committee got this one right on Saturday afternoon by recognizing Kennedy as not only an elite defender, but a player who helped change the game as a force of destruction from the interior line.

It goes beyond that with Kennedy, though, as a player for whom fans could root without reservation.

Those of us who have followed Kennedy since he arrived in 1990 have heard endlessly that ‘Tez,’ as they all called him, was a Hall of Fame teammate, a Hall of Fame guy, a Hall of Fame father, a Hall of Fame friend.

He was considered larger than life as a player (which is saying a great deal given his ample girth), but at the same time may have been the most humble man on the team.

You would ask him to analyze a play in which he overpowered two 300-pounders and then ran down a back from behind, Kennedy would always say: “Just playin’ Seahawks football.”

The man never voiced a complaint about the team’s inept offense nor chronic losing. He deserves a spot in the Hall for that alone.

Kennedy’s inclusion stands as a stunning validation, as individuals with credentials like Charles Haley (five Super Bowl wins) and coach Bill Parcells (two Super Bowl wins) were among those in the final 10 who did not earn the Hall’s signature gold jacket.

This was Kennedy’s fourth time as a finalist. Two factors have worked against Kennedy. He played a position where it is difficult to statistically quantify dominance, and he did so for a somewhat inconsequential and remote franchise. But two factors aren’t an obstacle for somebody so adept at beating double-teams.

This time around, there may have been a better recognition of his effect on the game during his era.

Former News Tribune staffer Mike Sando, now of ESPN.com, presented Kennedy’s case to the selection committee. He put Kennedy’s performance into the context of the NFL in the 1990s, pointing out that only two other defensive linemen matched Kennedy’s eight Pro Bowls in the decade – Reggie White and Bruce Smith.

The others to match that output from their positions were Jerry Rice, Deion Sanders, Emmitt Smith and Derrick Thomas. All are in the Hall of Fame.

Further context: In his 11 seasons, Kennedy played for four coaches and the Seahawks had only two seasons above .500, and one post-season appearance. While fans and national media had little chance to see Kennedy’s rare combination of power and quickness, opponents felt as if they saw too much.

Veteran NFL line coach Alex Gibbs told Sando that Kennedy, alone, made facing the Seahawks a nightmare.

“… it was going to boil down to making a decision,” Gibbs said of preparation to face Seattle. “Do I spend all my time with Cortez or do I deal with those other guys?”

Kennedy demanded double teams, and sometimes that wasn’t enough. As former teammate Dave Wyman told me last year for a column on Kennedy before the Hall of Fame vote, there were times when Kennedy would somehow collapse the entire left side of an opponent’s offensive line. A, B and C gaps, Wyman said … like 300-pound dominoes.

But Kennedy was also the jokester who hid in Wyman’s closet during training camp just for the sheer joy of jumping out and yelling “boo” at him in the middle of the night. “Cortez was a gem, one of the best teammates I ever had,” Wyman said.

Seahawk linebacker Terry Wooden came into the league with Kennedy, and said he was so talented that “sometimes you felt like a kid around him … whenever we needed to have a big play, all eyes were on ‘Tez; it was like we were all thinking, ‘Don’t worry, ‘Tez will rescue us’.”

In the locker room, Kennedy seemed totally unchanged from the guy who came from meager origins in Wilson, Ark. — humble and appreciative of his opportunity to play the game.

Wooden called him the most-popular guy on the team, mostly because he “would never put himself above anybody else … he’s one of the kindest people with the biggest heart you can imagine.”

Hall of Fame voters don’t take that kind of thing into consideration. But it makes it nicer to know this is the kind of man who finally earned the game’s highest honor.

 

Leave a comment Comments → 23
  1. MadSweeney42 says:

    About damn time (and nudging out the Bus to boot!)! Just an outstanding surprise for a guy who truly deserves it but didn’t get noticed playing up in Alaska South in the pre-Sunday Ticket era. Can’t really articulate how happy I am for him. Congrats Tez!

  2. Dukeshire says:

    Dave, really, very well said, and thank you. This is not only validation for Cortez but all of us in the 12th Man family. I really am stunned. I’ve long since held the belief that Seattle is a national afterthought, and I’ve learned to revel in that, somewhat, over the years: us against the world. But make no mistake, this is a monumental achievement for a more than deserving player, and a more than deserving acknowledgement to a city. Today, I’m proud.

    Congratulations, Cortez.

  3. I didn’t think he’d make it (due to playing in a foreign country and the usual politics). I’m glad some people were smart enough to do the right thing by voting him in.

  4. dacmike says:

    Congrats Cortez, it is a proud day for Seahawks nation and the 12th man…

  5. bird_spit says:

    To Cortez, Once again you have made me a happy man with YOUR achievements. Congratulations! It is an honor just to say I saw every down you played.

  6. Congrats to ‘Tez, a heckuva player and a heckuva man! Seahawk Nation and the 12th Man couldn’t be prouder!

  7. I feel lucky to have seen Tez’s first sack in person — a sack of Dan Marino in Miami.

    It’s truly a great day for Seahawks fans.

  8. Dukeshire says:

    Maybe it’s the wine, but the fact there are this few congratulatory comments here is revealing, to me, at least. This is of major significants. Whatever…

  9. Dukeshire says:

    Can – You saw that in the Orange Bowl? Wow, that’s pretty damn cool.

  10. Dukeshire says:

    Christ, I damn near teared up telling my mom about Tez. She started in with our family history and all the bad times… Maybe I take it all too seriously.

  11. Dukeshire says:

    I’ve been ony iPhone all day and didn’t realize there actually was al thread dedicated toTez. Apologies to Eric.

  12. great newz on tez congrats
    i wish h

  13. jawpeace says:

    Sweet! Tez was and is one of my all time favorite players. Glad he got in this year as opposed to last as I knew that class would not have as big as a moment in the sun with the lockout. And Cortez deserves lots of sunshine.
    My all time 3 favorite Seahawks, Steve Largent a HOF! Cortez Kennedy welcome to the Hall! And Walter Jones a soon to be HOF! Yes all three are HOFs but it was not just their football skills that I admired but their character true humble men while being super stars they were never about themselves, and they only wore Seahawk blue their entire career!

  14. Duke — I hear you. But, as an old guy who never posts, let me tell you how much it means to many of us out there. My wife was asking me tonight — why are you watching this show?? My three year old, who I am indoctrinating even though we live in Virginia, seemed to understand when I said to him– this is a big day for our ‘Hawks, Tez made it into the Hall of Fame. Sometimes you wonder why you spend as much time as you do watching these guys, pulling for them. Tez was a guy who made it worthwhile. Lord knows he deserved Better. I know it seems silly to worry about a guy making the hall, but this felt so awesome. Kids, let’s go to Canton!

  15. And Dave, thanks for your piece, no one else in the local media was better positioned than you to weigh in on this guy. If only we could have had him at another time in Hawks history. I wonder — and I am sure it has been said — but if Cortez Kennedy had played for an NFC East team, don’t you think the consensus would be that he was one of the best two or three best DTs of all time?

  16. wabubba67 says:

    Pretty powerful argument by Sando about a guy that should have been a no-brainer, first ballot Hall of Famer (if he had either played on the east coast or for a winner).

    Thank you, Sando….and thank you Dave for a great article and continued outstanding coverage of the Seahawks.

  17. Congrats to Tez!

  18. GeorgiaHawk says:

    I remember Tez, game in and game out was an unstoppable force in 1992 when he won defensive player of the year. The year he changed his number from 96 to 92, dedicating the 1992 season to Jerome Brown.

    Great person! Great player! Great day!

    http://www.miamiherald.com/2012/02/05/2625380/former-miami-hurricane-cortez.html

  19. Dukeshire says:

    Awesome, pez!

  20. “Can – You saw that in the Orange Bowl?”

    I think it was called Joe Robbie Stadium by then, Duke. I lived in Pennsylvania then and drove down for the game with three buddies, one of them a Dolphins fan. (Those were the pre-marriage days when I could do crazy stuff like that over a weekend.) It was a good game, but the Seahawks lost 24-17, if I remember correctly.

  21. Here’s the box score from that game: http://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/199012160mia.htm

    I’m pretty sure it was hotter than the 71 degrees listed in the boxscore.

  22. Helenahawk says:

    Congrats to Cortez! A richly deserved honor, overdue actually, but made sweeter by the fact that it is not lightly dispensed. You always were in an elite class, and now that is acknowledged.
    All Seahawks’ and Seahawkers’ rejoice with you!

  23. c_hawkbob says:

    It’s about damn time! Thanks to Mike and Jon and all who were behind Tez, it’s too bad it took a ‘campaign’ to get him in, it shouldn’t have.

    CONGRATS TEZ!!!

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