For 18 years, Steve Largent was the Seahawks’ only Hall of Fame player.
Since the franchise’s all-time leading receiver was elected to – and inducted into – the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995, in his first year of eligibility, there have been others with ties to the Seahawks who have joined Largent in the bust-filled room in Canton, Ohio: Carl Eller (2004), Warren Moon (2006), John Randle (2010) and Jerry Rice (2010).
But they were with the Seahawks during the final season or seasons of their Hall of Fame careers, and produced with varying degrees of success – from Randle’s 11-sack, Pro Bowl season in 2001 and Moon’s 3,678-yard, 25-touchdown pass performance in 1997; to Rice’s 25-catch season in 2004 and Eller’s 26-tackle effort in 1979.
Saturday, Largent was joined by Cortez Kennedy, who also played his entire career with the Seahawks, also redefined the way his position was played and is a better person than he was a player.
Is there enough room in that room in Canton for two Seahawks?
Largent laughed before offering, “Oh yeah. Absolutely. I’m so excited about it. I’m thrilled to death and nobody deserves it more than Cortez.”
Largent and Kennedy just missed playing together. Largent’s last season was 1989, when he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and touchdown catches (100) after 14 seasons in Seattle. Kennedy’s first season was 1990, when he arrived as the third pick overall in the NFL Draft after the Seahawks traded up so they could acquire the defensive tackle who would be voted to eight Pro Bowls (one more than Largent) during his 11-season career.v But they do know one another, and like each other.
“I probably got to know him better after he retired and – as you know – he’s not a hard guy to get to know,” Largent said Monday during a telephone interview from Washington, D.C., where he is president and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association.
“He’s just one of those really likable guys. I just got to know him through golf events and Seahawks events, and I met him several times while he was playing.”
Largent and Kennedy already have had a number of life-changing experiences in their time on this earth, but they now share another – one that Largent is familiar with and Kennedy is about to learn about.
“I think entering the Hall of Fame does change your life,” Largent said, before quickly adding, “Not in respect to priorities or anything like that. But just in terms of externally, you’re on a higher profile as a player.
“And also, you realize you’re joining a very limited and unique club of people and that there is a camaraderie you have with those men that really goes beyond anything I’ve ever been involved in before.”
Coming from Largent, that statement speaks volumes. He is, after all, a Christian, husband, father and grandfather, as well as successful businessman. And he was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Oklahoma (1994-2002) who also ran for governor of the state.
But in addition to all that, Largent will forever carry the tag “Hall of Fame wide receiver,” just as Kennedy’s name now will be preceded by “Hall of Fame defensive tackle.”
It’s a distinction players spend their entire career trying to achieve, but for most it remains a dream rather than reality. With addition of the six-member Class of 2012 – the 50th class – there are 273 people in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Just the quality and caliber of guys that you’re associated with, and get to associate with a lot, it’s really fun and exciting,” Largent said. “I still feel like a kid when I’m in the room with these guys. I’m a fan.”
Largent likens the distinction to being a Heisman Trophy winner.v “There are not very many people who do that,” he said. “So you’re in a limited and exclusive club.”
But the Heisman goes annually to the best player in college football that season, while the Pro Football Hall of Fame recognizes those were even better at the next level – and for a prolonged period.
“That’s why I’m so happy for Cortez,” Largent said. “He knows how cool it is right now, but he doesn’t realize yet that it gets better and better.”
Now that Largent has moved over just a tad to make room for Kennedy, he’s already anticipating making space for a threesome.
“I hope that we add another one here in the next few years,” he said.
That’s a reference to nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Walter Jones, whose first year of eligibility will be 2015.