Sunday, November 22, 2009
1981 - 1987
5 Pro Bowls
1981 AFC Defensive Rookie Of The Year
1984 NFL Defensive Player Of The Year
Kenneth Mason Easley Jr. was the first round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1981, and was the fourth player chosen overall. He went to college at the University of California in Los Angeles, where he is a legend. His jersey number is one of just eight to have been retired by the school. He owns the school record for career interceptions with 19, and his 374 tackles still ranks fourth overall. He also ranks eighth on punt returns. While also having returned kickoffs in his collegiate career, UCLA even asked him to punt several times.. Blessed with great speed and a 32-inch vertical jump, the Chicago Bulls drafted him in the tenth round of the 1981 NBA Draft as well.
Easley is the only player ever to be named First Team All-PAC 10 in all four years at college. He was also named to All-American three years, and was the second Bruin to accomplish this. Easley is a member of the Bruins All-Century Football Team, the UCLA Athletic Hall Of Fame, the Virginia Sports Hall Of Fame, and the College Football Hall Of Fame.
Seattle started him immediately, and the move paid off handsomely. He started all 14 games he played, intercepting three passes for a career high 155 yards. One was returned for a career long 82 yard touchdown. He also recovered a career high four fumbles. United Press International named him AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 1982 season in the NFL is most remembered for being shortened due to a players strike. It is also the first season Easley was named to the Pro Bowl after he had four interceptions and the first two sacks of his career. He would be named to the Pro Bowl for the next three seasons as well.
Not only was he awarded Pro Bowl honors over these three years, he was also named First Team All-Pro in each year. No other Seahawk defensive back has done this, and it ranks as the second most in franchise history still today. His four consecutive Pro Bowls was also a team record at the time.
The 1983 season saw Seattle hire Chuck Knox as their head coach. Knox believed in winning games in the trenches, and his offensive philosophy has been dubbed "Ground Chuck" for his propensity to run the ball often. Easley intercepted the ball seven times and had a career best three sacks that season as the Seahawks made the playoffs for the first time ever.
The Seahawks won their first ever playoff game by walloping the Denver Broncos 31-7. Easley contributed a sack and helped stifle the Broncos all game. Seattle rode that momentum into the next week, and came from behind to beat the Miami Dolphins 27-20. Their season ended the next week by losing in the AFC Championship to the Los Angeles Raiders, who eventually won the Super Bowl that year.
Easly had the best season of his career in 1984. He has a career high ten interceptions and two touchdowns, both of which led the NFL. Seattle also asked him to return punts that year, and he had a career high 18 returns for 194 yards. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
The Seahawks won 12 games that year. It was the highest win total for them until their 2006 team won 13 and reached the Super Bowl. They got revenge on the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs by winning 13-7. Easley provided a key interception that was returned 26 yards to help the team. Seattle would lose the next week to the Dolphins.
He missed three games the next year, yet had two interceptions and two sacks. Though he missed six games in 1986 because of an ankle injury, he still managed two interceptions and a sack. However, the ankle injury would come back to haunt him later on in his career.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1987 after getting four interceptions. The ankle was still bothering him, and he missed four games. He was also held out of the starting lineup for a game for the first time since his first game in college. Seattle made the playoffs,but lost. It was the last game he ever played again.
Seattle then traded him to the Phoenix Cardinals for the rights to quarterback Kelly Stouffer. Stouffer had been the sixth player overall drafted the season before, but sat out the entire season because he and the Cardinals were unable to agree to terms of a contact.
When Easley arrived for his physical in Phoenix, the Cardinals doctors found that he had a kidney disease. It was later determined his disease stemmed from taking too many Advils when he was attempting to play on his injured ankle, which was what the Seahawks medical staff had been advising him to do over that time.
Easley was forced to retire as a player. He later settled with the team out of court over the Advil fiasco that robbed him of his kidney and playing career. He would undergo a successful kidney transplant in 1990. He was jogging within four months of the surgery, then won a golf tournament within six months.
His 32 interceptions are the fourth most in team history, and his 538 yards returned off interceptions is the third most. The three touchdowns he scored off of interceptions is the second most, and his 11 fumble recoveries is the fifth most by any Seahawks defender. No other defensive back in Seahawks history has gone to the Pro Bowl more than him, and only three other players in team history have more appearances.
Kenny Easley is a member of the Seahawks Ring Of Honor, and is a member of the NFL 1980's All-Decade First Team. He is the only member of the unit to yet be inducted into Canton.
Critics of his induction point to the seven years as not being long enough to be considered worthy. These are critics who truly do not understand the history of the game of football. The Pro Football Hall Of Fame is filled with players who played less seasons. One prime example for the modern day warriors who are oblivious to history is Gale Sayers of the Chicago Bears. Sayers lasted seven years as well, yet his final two seasons saw him play just four games total.
Easley, on the other hand, finished his career at Pro Bowl level. He was the not only the best strong safety of the 1980's, but he was the best safety period. The other safety on the 1980's All-Decade First Team is Hall Of Famer Ronnie Lott, who played cornerback from 1981 to 1985 before moving to free safety. Hall Of Fame coach Bill Walsh thought the fact Easley's career was cut short has kept him from his deserved induction and said, "He'd be a Hall of Fame player (had he played longer). Maybe he still is. He was that good."
Well it is easy to see that Kenny Easley easily belongs in Canton. He really was that good.
Notable Players Drafted In 1981 ( * Denotes Hall Of Fame Inductee )
1. George Rogers, RB, New Orleans Saints
2. Lawrence Taylor, OLB, New York Giants *
3. Freeman McNeil, RB, New York Jets
5. E.J. Junior, OLB, Saint Louis Cardinals
7. Hugh Green, OLB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
8. Ronnie Lott, DB, San Francisco 49ers *
11. Keith Van Horne, OT, Chicago Bears
15. Dennis Smith, SS, Denver Broncos
18. Donnell Thompson, DE, Baltimore Colts
19. Brian Holloway, OT, New England Patriots
20. Mark May, OG, Washington Redskins
22. Hanford Dixon, CB, Cleveland Browns
24. James Brooks, RB, San Diego Chargers
25. Bobby Butler, CB, Atlanta Falcons
33. Neil Lomax, QB, Cardinals
34. James Wilder, RB, Buccaneers
37. Chris Collinsworth, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
38. Mike Singletary, MLB, Chicago Bears *
40. Eric Wright, CB, 49ers
41. Joe Delaney, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
47. Tony Collins, RB, Patriots
48. Howie Long, DE, Oakland Raiders *
51. Ricky Jackson, OLB, Saints
56. Andra Franklin, FB, Miami Dolphins
57. Frank Warren, DE, Saints
63. Greg Meisner, NT, Los Angeles Rams
65. Carlton Williamson, SS, 49ers
69. Russ Grimm, OG, Redskins
71. Hoby Brenner, TE, Saints
74. Tim Irwin, OT, Minnesota Vikings
78. Lloyd Burruss, SS, Chiefs
95. Todd Bell, SS, Bears
107. Eric Sievers, TE, Chargers
114. Edwin Bailey, OG, Seattle Seahawks
119. Dexter Manley, DE, Redskins
125. Ken Lanier, OT, Broncos
129. Larry Lee, OG, Detroit Lions
131. Keith Ferguson, DE, Chargers
154. Fulton Walker, DB, Dolphins
156. Bryan Hinkle, OLB, Pittsburgh Steelers
173. Ron Fellows, DB, Dallas Cowboys
177. Jeff Fisher, DB, Bears ( Notable NFL Coach )
183. David Little, MLB, Steelers
187. Eddie Johnson, MLB, Browns
189. Pete Holohan, TE, Chargers
201. Charlie Brown, WR, Redskins
208. William Judson, CB, Dolphins
210. Wade Wilson, QB, Vikings
212. Lin Dawson, TE, Patriots
221. Billy Ard, OG, Giants
226. Stump Mitchell, RB, Cardinals
231. Darryl Grant, DT, Redskins
241. Robb Riddick, RB, Buffalo Bills
265. Mike Mayock, DB, Steelers ( Notable Football Announcer )
291. Jim C. Jensen, WR, Dolphins
305. Jim Wilks, DE, Saints
314. Clint Didier, TE, Redskins
331. Ray Ellis, SS, Philadelphia Eagles