INDIANAPOLIS -- Cortez Kennedy crashed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame the same way he used to crash into people who tried to block the old Miami Hurricane.
“I’ve never been happier,’’ he said. “Well, maybe when we won big games at UM. Or in Seattle. But I’m on top of the world right now for sure.’’
He added jauntily, “Imagine — lil’ ol’ boy from Wilson, Arkansas."
Lil’ ol’ boy isn’t so lil — 298 pounds when he played defensive tackle for first UM and then the Seahawks for 11 seasons, and maybe a lil’ more now.
However big he gets, he won’t outgrow his accomplishments. Kennedy has been a credit to his old hometown, his family, his university and his Seahawks all the time he was bull-rushing past people.
“Coach Dennis Erickson used to tell us good things will keep happening if you keep hustling,’’ Kennedy said. “I don’t know if anything will ever be bigger than winning that ’89 national championship at Miami, but this is nice, real nice.’’
It will get nicer and nicer. Making the Hall is a life-changer. People start wanting to do things for you. Then the main thing you have to worry about is staying out of trouble.
I don’t know that that will be a problem for Kennedy. He has always had a fine head on him. And now he stands alongside Randy White and Mean Joe Greene and Bob Lilly among the greatest defensive tackles of all time.
Oh, yes, another DT, Chris Doleman, was voted in along with Kennedy by the Hall committee. We came out grinning after also picking Jack Butler, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf in a 7 hour 48 minute marathon.
It wasn’t that great for candidates who finally fell by the voting wayside — Bill Parcells, Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Cris Carter, Eddie DeBartolo, Kevin Greene, Charles Haley, Andre Reed, Will Shields, Aeneas Williams and Dick Stanfel. A lot of those just have to go on waiting.
No DT ever made more Pro Bowls than Kennedy’s eight. It was just what Erickson predicted for him early on. To be sure, Kennedy has known heartbreak, too. He changed his uniform number from 96 to 92 for his ’92 season with the Seahawks, to honor his friend and fellow Hurricane, Jerome Brown, after Brown died in a car accident.
But making this Hall of Fame never seemed like anything more than a matter of time for the ebullient buster from Wilson, Ark.
He blew through UM like, well, like a hurricane to become one of the most pro-productive of Erickson’s Canes. The Seattle Seahawks snatched him up as the third player in the ’90 NFL Draft, and he took it from there.
He played in eight consecutive Pro Bowls. He also joined Kenny Easley as the only Seahawks to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year (’92).
One more thing needs to be said about Kennedy. And that is this. Good citizenship is not even remotely a qualification for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Hall spokesmen go out of their way to emphasize that they deal with on-field football only.
But Kennedy has done it both ways, as a good soldier on grass and an upstanding citizen away from it. He hasn’t been one of those iron-headed saps who figure all they have to do is throw a few guys into the grandstand. Maybe that doesn’t count with the Hall of Fame, but it does with me.