Pro Football Hall of Famer. Ring of Honor member. Jersey number retired. NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Steve Largent Award winner. NFL Team of the Decade selection for the 1990s. Eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle. Four-time All-Pro. Defensive co-captain. Seahawks MVP.
And, in retirement, Seahawks Ambassador and member of the Board of Advisors.
After everything Cortez Kennedy has done and been for the Seahawks since being selected in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft, there was only one way for him to go on the eve of the team’s divisional playoff game against the New Orleans Saints at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.
Up. And that’s where Kennedy was Friday morning – atop the Space Needle raising a 25-foot by 35-foot “12” Flag.
“That was amazing,” Kennedy said after braving the elements and flaunting his Blueness on “Blue Friday.”
“To get on top of the Space Needle and raise the 12th Man Flag and it was for all of the fans; I tell you it was amazing.”
Not to mention blustery, as gusting winds buffeted his efforts. But it was far from a gone-with-the-wind experience, even for someone who has experienced as much as Kennedy has.
“I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would be up on the Space Needle and raising the 12th Man Flag,” Kennedy said. “Especially with a big football game this weekend.”
Ah, the game. This game, where the winner advances to next Sunday’s NFC Championship matchup against the winner of Sunday’s game between the San Francisco 49ers and Panthers in Carolina. Despite Kennedy’s individual excellence during his 11-season career with the Seahawks (1990-2000), he played in only one postseason game – and had to wait until his next-to-last season to do it. That was in 1999, when the Seahawks won the AFC West title and then lost in the wild-card round to the Miami Dolphins in the last football game ever played in the Kingdome.
“I always wanted to play in the postseason,” he said. “I just wish it had happened more than once.”
But Kennedy has remained a part of the team’s more recent success by attending their playoff games against the Redskins in Washington and Falcons in Atlanta last season. He also was on hand for the wild-card game in Seattle after the 2010 season, when the Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl champion Saints; and then in Chicago the following week, when the Seahawks lost to the Bears in the divisional round.
Saturday, the Seahawks will play a divisional game at home for only the second time in franchise history – the other coming in 2005, when the Seahawks rode having home-field advantage throughout the playoffs all the way to the Super Bowl. And the significance has not been lost on Kennedy.
“It was a great honor for the Seahawks to ask me to raise the flag for this game,” Kennedy said.
It’s also a bit ironic that the Seahawks’ opponent on Saturday is the Saints. After Kennedy’s final season in Seattle, the Saints approached him about continuing his career with them.
“The Saints and a couple other teams wanted me to play, but I knew I was done playing,” he said. “And my whole career had been with the Seahawks, and I finished it with the Seahawks, and went into the Hall of Fame (in 2012) as a Seahawk.
“So I’m really thrilled to be the team Ambassador and be around the organization.”