Cortez Kennedy, Hall Of Famer
by Larry Schmitt
Cortez Kennedy was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fourth year as a finalist. He is just the second player to be enshrined in Canton that spent his entire career with the Seahawks, joining Steve Largent who was enshrined in 1995.
Kennedy (from the University of Miami, FL) was the third overall player selected in the 1990 NFL draft. More than just a stout player against the run, Kennedy had explosive quickness and a knack for making plays behind the line of scrimmage. He assumed a full-time starting position on the interior defensive line for the Seahawks in 1991 and began a string of six consecutive Pro Bowl invitations. He rouitinely made plays in the backfield, stopping ball carriers for a loss while also pressuring quarterbacks. His 6.5 quarterback sacks were just a prelude of what was to come..
Remarkably, Kennedy's personal best season came in the franchises worst. The 1992 Seahawks had the NFL's worst offense. They ranked last in total yards from scrimmage and last in points scored (averaging 10 points per game, they were shut out twice and never scored more than 17 points in a single game.) Despite their futility 2-14 record, the defense played tough and Kennedy was dominant. Despite playing from behind in most games in the 2-14 season, he compiled 14 quarterback sacks and four forced fumbles. Also, although an unoffical statistic, team records credit Kennedy with 93 tackles, including 41 for a loss. He was honored for his outstanding season with the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award, and was only the third player in history to receive such recognition from a losing team. It was also his first of three consecutive selections to the NFL's All Pro team.
Unfortunately, that theme would continue for most of his career. His personal success and recognition was achieved on mostly mediocre teams. Over his 11 seasons in Seattle, Kennedy was named All Pro three times and played in eight Pro Bowls (making him the second most decorated Seahawk after Walter Jones), but the team only finished with a winning record twice and qualified for the playoffs just once.
A knee injury shortened Kennedy's 1998 season and ended his club record 100 consecutive starts. He rebounded with a strong season in 1999 as he regained his Pro Bowl form. His veteran leadership inspired a defensive unit that finished in the league's top 10 in points surrendered. Kennedy had 6.5 sacks and two interceptions during the season and helped Seattle to a 9-7 record and the AFC West Division Championship, as Seattle qualified for the post season for the first time since 1988.
Kennedy played one more season before retiring after the 2000 season. His 58 sacks rank fourth all time in Seahawk history, and his overall high level of impact play saw him honored with inclusion on the NFL's All Decade team of the 1990's.