Cortez Kennedy's Hall of Fame Speech

Posted Aug 4, 2012

Cortez Kennedy's speech from the Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

"This is awesome. Thank you, Dixie. I love you so much.

Growing up in Wilson, Arkansas, it never crossed my mind that someday I’d be standing here, with all of these wonderful players in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been truly blessed – blessed to have been surrounded by so many people that care, blessed to have supporters on and off the field, and blessed to have great parents to keep me humble.

To my dad, Joe Harris, you have always been a great balancing factor in my life. I can remember not doing my chores right. Cutting the yard – I didn’t cut the yard right. You made me cut the grass at five-o-clock in the morning in the dark. You said, “Do it right the first time and you won’t have to do it again.” I got the point – don’t take short cuts. But since I’m older now – if I didn’t cut it right in the daytime, why the heck am I going to do it in the night time? I’m just throwing that out there right now. That doesn’t seem right to me. Thank you for the many nights we talked on the phone throughout my career, and thank you for teaching me how to be a man. I love you so much. Thank you, dad.

My Mom, I love you so much. I’ll never forget when you made me quit football my sophomore year for having bad grades. My high school football team went to the state championship. Mom, you went to the game and sent back a postcard: “Wish you were here.” That was the turning point of my life. You know how much I love football, but when you sent me that postcard I thought, ‘Well, if you wanted me there you should have took me there.’ But I understand you care about me more as a son than as a football player. I love you so much.
 My senior year we went 13-0, we won the state championship. I’d like to thank my teammates at Rivercrest High School. I would like to thank Coach Danny Graham, and Mike Smith who is in attendance today.

I ended up getting a scholarship to Northwest Mississippi Community College. My parents sent me to stay with my cousin, Lee English. Lee was my role model growing up. He was a great quarterback at Rivercrest High School. Everything that Lee did I wanted to be just like him. So Lee helped me get a job delivering pizzas. That didn’t sit well with coach Bobby Franklin – my junior college coach. I always had a problem with my weight. So Coach Franklin said, ‘”Cortez, where are you working?” I said, ‘delivering pizzas.’ He said, “What? You’re delivering pizzas?!’  For five weeks I got a note in the mail, “Eat those pizzas and I’m going to cut you from the team.” So I came back to camp and got out of the car and coach Bobby Franklin said, “Cortez, you look great” 

I would like to thank my teammates at Northwest Mississippi Community College. I would like to thank Coach Franklin and Coach Ron Stark for helping me get to the next level. I ended up getting a scholarship to the ‘U’, the University of Miami. Like Michal Irvin said a couple of years ago, “We love the University of Miami.” 

I thought in my mind I was going to be the big dog. That was until we had to run the conditioning test. A 20-minute conditioning test. After five minutes I broke down. I was tired. I thought I was playing Cowboys and Indians. I was going to quit, but Coach Dave Wannstedt came up to me and said, “We don’t quit at the ‘U’.” I said, “Coach, I will not quit.” So the next day we had to run one again. Coach Jimmy Johnson said, “Cortez, you didn’t make it, we are going to run another one.” So I panicked. They do not play like that.
So I turned to coach Shannon and I said, “I made it, Rand.”” Coach Shannon said, “Cortez, we know that. Coach Johnson was just playing mind games with to see if you were going to quit.”

If it wasn’t for Coach Shannon I would not be here today. Coach Shannon and a lot of people said, “Cortez, you did it on your own.” I did a lot on my own, but coach Shannon taught me how to work. He stayed in my apartment during training camp and would train me the whole summer. Randy Shannon slept on my floor in my apartment. I would get up at three in the morning and try to sneak in the refrigerator and get something to eat and Randy would say, “Tez, get out of there.” I said, ‘Randy, do you ever go to sleep?’

At the University of Miami with Randy Shannon, Russell Maryland, and me, we had to lose weight. We had a black garbage bag on running a hill trying to lose weight. That’s how bad we needed to lose weight and that’s how Coach Shannon trained me.  I want to thank Coach Randy Shannon for everything he did for me at the University of Miami. So thank you, Coach Shannon.

I will never forget that day when Coach Dennis Erickson came in the room and said, “You’re the starting defensive tackle.” I called Randy Shannon and I said, ‘Randy, I’m the starting defensive tackle.’ Randy said, “Tez, it’s your job to lose.” I said I wasn’t going to lose it. That year the University of Miami ended up winning the National Championship. We beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. “Roll Tide, Roll.” That year I was MVP for the University of Miami. I would like to thank my teammates. I also want to thank Coach Jimmy Johnson, Coach Erickson. Thank you, coaches.

 I’d like to thank Seahawks owners Ken Hoffman and Ken Behring. I would like to thank Paul Allen for owning the team now. I’d also like to thank John Nordstrom – the original Seahawks owner who is here today.

 Of course, I held out my entire first training camp. I started two games. I played a lot.  I made the all-rookie team. But I’m in Arkansas having a good time during the offseason and I get a call from my pro player personnel director. He said, “Cortez, they got you in the magazine saying you was runner up for bust.” I said, ‘Bust what?’ He said, “That means you didn’t have a good year. It means that you sucked!” I said, ‘I’ll tell you what coach, I’ll show you. I’ll be better next year.’

So next year I had six sacks in six games. I’m on a roll. I’m playing good. But you know with football players we get injured. For four weeks I did not practice and I played in a game. Coach Chuck Knox said, “Cortez, you look kind of heavy out there.” So finally I got a call to his office. They said, “Cortez, we need to put you on a scale on Monday.” I ended up weighing 323 pounds and he wanted me at 303 pounds. So I get a call back to the office. Coach Knox said, “Cortez, if you not at your weight by Friday I’m fining you $100 a pound.” Phew. All of my friends know I’m not giving up any money. Somebody said, “Cortez, Chuck is going to weigh you on game day.” I came in Sunday and Coach Knox called me into his office again and said, “We need to weigh you again.” So I get on the scale and I am 305 pounds. I had a decent game, I played good, and we won the football game. Coach Knox called me into his office again on Monday morning. I felt like I was going to the principal’s office. Coach said, “Cortez, I’m proud of you with your weight. You got your weight down.” So, me being a smart-alec. I said to coach, ‘You didn’t say that when I had six sacks in six games.’ He turned red and said, “Cortez, get out of my office right now.” I left, but I knew I didn’t have to weigh-in on Sundays anymore. Thank you, coach Knox.

That year I made the Pro Bowl I called my buddy Jerome Brown and told him the good news. He said, “Cortez you did not earn the Pro Bowl.” Next week we go to the Pro Bowl and he told me, “Tez, the reason I said that was because you needed to earn it, because you need to get voted in as a starter. Don’t back yourself in.”

We lost Jerome and his nephew, Gus, in a car crash that summer. Jerome and I spoke on the phone the day before. We were planning to hang out that weekend. I will always miss you, Jerome.

I ended up changing my number from 96 to 99 to honor Jerome. We won only two games that year with 14 losses but I ended up getting Defensive Player of the Year. That was a tough year for Coach Phillip. I feel worse for him than the head coach because we didn’t have any offense. Our defense was top 10 in the country. It’s bad when the defensive coordinator says, “We are not going to win the game just don’t embarrass ourselves.”

I would like to thank Jacob Green and Joe Nash. Thank you for helping me to get involved with the community. You’re the reason I started my football clinic in Arkansas.  I was new to the Seahawks.

Joe, thank you for helping me with my technique. And I want to than my rookie club, my class that came in 1990– Chris Warren, Robert Blackmon, and Terry Wooden – I love you guys.

I would like to thank my defensive line coach, Tommy Brasher – our D-line coach in Seattle. You kept me going and kept me focused, and you taught me how to be a pro on the field. You stayed on my butt and you never let me become complacent. Thank you, Tommy Brasher.

To all of my head coaches in Seattle -- Chuck Knox, Tom Flores. I love you, coach Flores, Dennis Erickson, and Mike Holmgren – I thank each of you for your leadership and support. I learned a lot from you guys. Thank you, Coach Holmgren for taking me to my first and only playoff appearance.

I’d also like to say a special word about a special teammate. Walter Jones – you will be the next Seahawk standing up here. You have your jersey retired in Seattle, and in a couple more years, I hope you are up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Good luck, Walter Jones.

I would also like to thank my buddy Daryl Fullington for helping me run my football clinic in Arkansas for 10 years. My football clinic would not be a success without you. Thank you, Daryl for being a close friend. I would like to thank Mike Gibson my personal lawyer, my best friend. Mike, thank you for looking after my business throughout my career and today.

Life after football isn’t always easy. We’ve heard a lot about that lately. I’d like to thank general manager Mickey Loomis and the New Orleans Saints. Mickey was a Seahawks vice president when I played for the team. I called him after I retired and asked if I could help training camp with the team. “Of course,” he said. For three years I worked with the Saints’ D-line in camp, and for the last six years I’ve been a special advisor. I’d like to thank Mr. Benson for allowing me to be part of the Saints organization. And thanks to Coach Sean Payton for taking us to the Super Bowl. That ring sure looks good on my finger. Thank you, Coach Payton.

One of the most important people in my life, one who instilled professionalism in me, was my agent, the late Robert Fraley. Robert, you not only taught me how to be a pro on and off the field, but you taught me how to surround myself with people possessing special traits. You stressed the importance of doing the right thing and treating people the right way. You were a great listener.

Robert, if I had a problem I could come to you and you would solve everything. I never will forget when I broke my ankle in 1997.  The first two people to come to my house was Randy and Mickey. You don’t know how much it meant to me when you came over to my house because I was sitting at home crying liking a baby because I can’t play football anymore. It meant a lot to me. That act of kindness shows you the class of the Seahawks organization. Thank you, Mickey Loomis and Randy Mueller.

 I would like to thank Peter McCoughlin the Seahawks president, Gary Wright, Sandy Gregory, Dave Neubert, Julie Barber, Char Kores, Cindy Kelly, Chuck Arnold, and Dave Pearson. I want to especially thank Eric Kennedy and Brad Mellon, who were my equipment managers. I also want to thank our trainers, Jimmy Whitesel, Paul Federici, Sam Ramsden and Todd Sperber, and my strength coaches, Dana LeDuc and Kent Johnson.

 My team doctors, thank you, especially Dr. Brad Shoup, Dr. Kevin Auld, Dr. Ed Khalfayan and Dr. Stan Herring. Dr. Khalfayan – thank you for taking care of me throughout my playing career and even to this day. I would also like to thank my childhood doctor Reggie Cullen.

I love the people I worked with and I am not just talking about all the players and coaches, I’m talking about the Seahawk fans the 12th Man. 

To my daughter Courtney, you mean so much to me. I am so proud of the student athlete you are becoming and I trust every day that you would be the person I thought you would. I always told you this when you were born, that I would protect you, I would love you, and I would not let anybody harm you ever. Thank you, Courtney for being one of my biggest fans. But, like I’ve been saying – 250 more days you got to get out of the house and go to college.  You know you can always come home to me, daddy’s little girl.

This day, right now, this moment, is all about those who gave of themselves along the way, those who provided support and those who have cheered. It is all about the 12th Man! It is all about those who have come before and those who will come after. It is all about my beautiful daughter, Courtney. It is all about the players and friends I laugh with over the years. It is all about the teammates I cried with over the years both in victory and defeat. It is not only about winning or losing. It is so much bigger than that. It is about the relationships and about sharing and working hard together. It is about not taking short cuts. God bless America, and God bless the Seattle Seahawks!"