CANTON, Ohio – It didn’t take long for Cortez Kennedy to have his first Hall of Fame pinch-me moment.
It happened over lunch here on Friday. But then it wasn’t just any lunch – and definitely not just another lunch. The Seahawks’ eight-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle broke bread with roughly 60 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame – a group that is about to include Kennedy, who he will be inducted into the Hall on Saturday night.
“This has been awesome,” Kennedy said during an interview session, referring to the Nitschke luncheon where members of the Hall share their experiences and advice with the current Class.
“I just came from a luncheon with all the Hall of Famers, and that was neat. It was great to be in. I’m sitting there and there’s Fred Dean and Franco Harris, who I didn’t like because he beat up my Cowboys. Michael Irvin was there, and Willie Lanier. I’m sitting next to John Randle and Anthony Munoz and across from me is John Madden.
“There’s so many great Hall of Famers there. Just to be in that room you’re like, ‘Oh my goodness, I’ve got to pinch myself.’ ”
Except that Kennedy really didn’t have the time. He was so busy on Friday that he had to remind himself that there’s still the dinner this evening where he will be presented his gold Hall of Fame jacket, along with the other members of the Class of 2012 – Pittsburgh Steelers center Dermontti Dawson, New Orleans Saints tackle Willie Roaf, defensive end Chris Doleman, who played for three NFL teams; New York Jets running back Curtis Martin and Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Jack Butler.
“We’ve been up since 6 o’clock, and we’re doing a lot of activities already,” Kennedy said. “All of a sudden, I’m like, ‘I’ve got the Golden Jacket dinner to go to tonight.’ We’ve been so busy and I’m just going to enjoy every moment of it.”
And Kennedy’s whirlwind weekend is just getting started. Saturday morning, there is the downtown parade in this slice-of-Americana city. Saturday night, there is the nationally televised induction ceremony from Fawcett Stadium. After that, it’s Kennedy’s by-invitation-only party, where he is expecting 350 family members, friends and former teammates and coaches.
“You know what, I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring because it’s going to be so emotional,” Kennedy said. “It’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing, and it’s going to be great.”
Entering the Hall with three other linemen makes it that much sweeter for Kennedy.
“You know something, there are no prima donnas in this group,” he said, glancing around the room at the other Class of 2012 members. “You’ve got Curtis Martin. He’s quiet. He could be a lineman. He doesn’t say that much. This might be the shortest Hall of Fame speeches of all time.”
Those other down-and-dirty members of this year’s Class that spent their Hall of Fame careers in the trenches also appreciate the man they all refer to simply as Tez.
“Tez was one of the hardest guys to block,” Dawson said. “I tell you what, when he played, oh my goodness, Tez was strong and quick for a guy his size. He had this weird little move – he’d try to get into you and then he’d yank you a certain way and try to get you off balance.
“But this is fitting, because Tez deserves it. He’s been a consistent player for a long, long time. And consistency is what it’s all about. So Tez deserves everything that comes to him.”
Kennedy also wants to make sure the 12th Man – the Seahawks’ fans – share in this special moment. And he’s talking to you. And you. And even you.
“I’m so proud, not only for the Seahawks organization but the Seahawks fans,” Kennedy said. “This honor they deserve just as much as I do because we’ve been through so much in Seattle. So to see me getting into the Hall of Fame with (Steve) Largent, it’s speechless.
“It’s great for the city of Seattle. Plus the Seahawks fans and the 12th Man.”