The Seahawks knew they had something special in Cortez Kennedy when they traded up to the third spot in the 1990 NFL Draft to select the rotund defensive tackle from the University of Miami.
It wasn’t, however, until they got Kennedy on the practice field that they realized just how special he Kennedy was – and could become.
“We’d seen Cortez on film in scouting him before the draft, and you could kind of tell that he was something different,” recalled Paul Moyer, a safety and special teams standout for the Seahawks from 1983-89 who joined the coaching staff in 1990. “But it wasn’t one of those, ‘Oh yeah, he’s the most-dominate thing I’ve ever seen.’
“It wasn’t until we got him in camp, where he was going against other people with the same athletic ability or likeness, that you went, ‘Wow. OK, he’s not the same athletic ability. He’s stronger. He’s faster. He’s a better player.’ ”
In 1992, Kennedy was one of the best players to ever play his position. He collected 14 sacks and 93 tackles in being named NFL defensive player of the year – on a team that finished 2-14. He also was voted to the second of his eight Pro Bowls that season.
“It wasn’t really until 1992 that we realized just how great a player he was,” Moyer said. “In addition to being the quickest off the ball and the strongest, he understood the game. It would take two or three guy every play to block him.”
Kennedy also was the kind of individual who transcended his football accomplishments. He was as likeable off the field as he was lethal on the field.
“In this day and age, whether it’s politics or movie stars or whatever, half the people in world love you and the other half hate you,” Moyer said. “There aren’t that many people who are successful with the attributes or traits where everybody likes you.
“Opponents certainly didn’t like going up against Cortez, but just as certainly they respected him. His teammates liked him. His coaches liked him. The front office liked him. The media liked him. It’s just rare when it’s hard to find anybody saying something bad about somebody. But that was Cortez.”
The man most people call Tez will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Aug. 4. To commemorate his latest – and greatest – achievement, Seahawks.com is asking those who played with him and knew him for their thoughts on Kennedy. Today, it’s Moyer.
The connection: Moyer and Kennedy never played on the same defense, but Kennedy’s first season with the Seahawks was Moyer’s first as a member of the coaching staff. In 1990-91, Moyer was a special assignments coach. From 1992-94, he coached the defensive backs and was the assistant special teams coached. From 1990-92, the Seahawks were the only team in the NFL to rank among the Top 10 in defense, and Kennedy was a humungous reason why. The coaches – from coordinator Tom Catlin, to line coach Tommy Brasher to Moyer – would devise schemes designed to get Kennedy in one-on-one situations.
“One thing we were always trying to do was, ‘How can we make it easier for me?’ ” Moyer said. “Because if we could get him in a one-on-one situation, it’s like we’re blitzing. The idea was just to get him freed up so he didn’t have to go against two or three guys. In ’92, a lot of our blitz packages were designed just to free him up.”
The congratulations: “I’m really happy for Tez. (Former linebacker) Dave Wyman and I wrote a book a few years ago and we dedicated a chapter to Cortez. One of things I wrote was, ‘Tez proved good guys can finish first.’ And he was one of the good guys. He was always happy. He treated people with respect. He was always humble. He never acted like he was a big shot, even though he was a high draft pick and defensive player of the year. So how can you not be happy for a person like that?”
In closing: “Cortez had both the long career and a dominant stretch that’s usually worthy of Hall of Fame numbers and a place in the Hall of Fame. So there’s no question he belongs in the Hall of Fame.”