Peyton Manning was in town, and there were plenty of other folks to pay attention to in the Seahawks’ first home preseason game. But, it was former Husky Jermaine Kearse who put forth a command performance.
Kearse made a hard cut to turn the cornerback in, before angling out toward the front pylon of the end zone in the first quarter. Russell Wilson was a tad late with the delivery because of a bad snap. It didn’t matter. Kearse pulled in a 12-yard touchdown for the Seahawks’ first score of the night.
“I was wondering what was taking so long,” Kearse said. “I was wondering if he threw it to the other side …”
About seven minutes later, Kearse was in the end zone again.
The Seahawks decided late this week to give Kearse a shot at returning kicks despite him having zero kick returns in four years at Washington. Friday, head coach Pete Carroll announced Kearse would be the first returner in Saturday night’s game.
He stayed after practice fielding kicks from the Juggs machine and took reps late in the week.
“It was nice,” Kearse said. “I haven’t returned a kickoff return since high school. They came up to me this week and asked my if I wanted to return, and I definitely wasn’t going to turn it down.”
He fielded Denver’s first kickoff seven yards deep in the end zone, moved up the left side of the field, then squirted between two defenders while breaking an arm tackle. It was clear road and loud cheers after that.
“Our kickoff return team blocked it up really well,” Kearse said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better blocking scheme than I got out there.”
Was he advised by Carroll to take kicks out of the end zone when he’s seven yards deep?
“He said the cutoff I think was seven or eight,” Kearse said. “I didn’t realize how deep I was. The ball was kind of hanging up there. So, when I took my first step, I just said, ‘Whatever’ and went out.”
Kearse’s 107-yard kick-off return for a touchdown gave him three touchdowns in two preseason games. It also likely cemented his spot on the team.
As for his time at Washington, Kearse said he was never asked to return kicks.
“No,” Kearse said. “I was on the front line blocking.”
Then, he laughed.