By Jim Gehman, Player Engagement Insider
Former Seahawks strong safety Kenny Easley made the most out of a seven-year career that was shortened because of a kidney ailment.
Selected fourth overall by Seattle in the 1981 NFL Draft out of UCLA, Easley, a three-time first-team All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowler, was the league’s Defensive Player of the Year in 1984 after collecting a league-high and career-best 10 interceptions.
“I’ve often told people that I love football and football loved me back. And it loved me back because I always played the game hard,” said Easley, who was with the Seahawks 1981-87, and is a member of NFL’s All-Decade Team of 1980s. “I played only one way and that was to leave it all on the field every game. I knew no other way to play. And I always said if I had to walk away from the game early because of injury, at least I can say that I left it out there and I did it to the best of my ability every opportunity I had.”
And now 25 years after he walked away from the game, the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s senior committee had the first opportunity to nominate Easley as its nominee.
The committee met last August and chose Easley, who has 32 career interceptions, as their lone nominee even though he was never a finalist in the 20 years [1993-2012] he was eligible to be nominated as modern player.
“I didn’t learn about the senior committee and much about what they have to deal with until I got the Pro Football Hall of Fame media guide,” Easley said. “And looking through that and knowing how many players are out there waiting that have been out for the 25 years or so, hundreds of them, to be nominated by the senior committee and the only one this year, it’s quite a thing.
“It’s really quite an honor and I just hope that I can live up to the honor of being selected my first time as a senior committee person.”
The NFL Legend learned he would be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the evening before last February’s Super Bowl LI. The Class of 2017’s induction ceremony will take place on August 5 inside the Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio.
Getting closer to that date, is Easley – who joins Hall of Famers Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and Walter Jones as the fourth Seahawk to play his entire career for Seattle – getting nervous? Excited? Or both?
“No, I’m not nervous,” Easley said. “I’m not overly excited as I thought I would be when I got selected. I’ve kind of always had known. I had done sort of a mock speech if I ever got into the Hall of Fame-type a thing.
“I wrote down some things as to what I would say. And when I got the selection, I went back and looked at that speech that I had written and I kind of felt that it was apropos to keep the first half of that speech because it was what I wanted to say.
“The second part of the speech, which I just sort of added to it, bringing in some of the things I wanted to say about some of my teammates at various times, at UCLA, in high school and in the professional ranks. So I would say I’m not nervous. I’m not overly excited, but I’m looking forward to making the speech.”
And what does Easley hope people will take away from his speech?
“I’m hoping they’ll take away that I am enormously thankful to God for making this happen. I start my speech by saying that a big part of this is what I derive from Philippians 4:6,” Easley said.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
“I relied on that. I heard that many times from my pastor. He kept telling me that there was a season for everything and just be patient and wait for God. That gave me a great deal of comfort that if I stayed patient and not too anxious, that my season would come. And I want other guys that have not been picked to know that this is applicable to them.”
Easley makes his home in Chesapeake, Virginia, where he gives back to the community by running the Ken Easley NFL Flag Football League for kids, 7-14.
“The thing that has been most important to me as this point of my life is my flag football league because I’m helping young kids” Easley said. “I know a lot of these kids want to become football players someday, and the program that I run in addition to teaching them the skills that they’re going to need to become successful football players, we teach them how to tackle properly.
“This is a flag football league, but we have this component to teach the kids to tackle properly. I know the dangers of head injuries and the research that a person’s neck doesn’t fully mature until they’re 25 years old. And so if I can continue to teach these kids to tackle properly, perhaps they won’t have the trauma to their necks and their heads.
“I believe through flag football, if done properly, we’re going to minimize these injuries to these kids’ necks and heads. And that’s going to be a good thing.”