Seeing a rookie impeding his path to the quarterback, or at least the pass he was about to throw, Cortez Kennedy decided to do something he almost never did. The Seahawks’ Hall of Fame defensive tackle regrets the decision to this day.
The play occurred during training camp in 1997, and the rookie blocker was first-round draft choice Walter Jones.
“I was coming around on a stunt and I jumped up to tip the ball,” Kennedy said with one of those rumbling laughs that were so common during his 11-season career with the Seahawks that included being voted to the Pro Bowl eight times, selected All-Pro four times and named to the NFL Team of the Decades for the 1990s.
“Walter pancaked me. He helped me up and said, ‘Sorry, Tez.’ I told him, ‘Don’t be sorry, Walt. I should have known better than to jump.’ I usually didn’t jump, but I was coming around against a rookie so I decided to jump and tip the ball.”
“Everybody was like, ‘Woooo,’ ” Kennedy said. “That’s when I knew Walt was something special.”
The man most people call Big Walt or just Walt will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, on Saturday. To commemorate his latest – and greatest – football achievement, Seahawks.com is asking those who played with him and against him, coached him and knew him best for their thoughts on Jones. Today, it’s Kennedy.
The connection: Jones and Kennedy were teammates for only four seasons (1997-2000), but it was enough time for their mutual admiration society to be solidified. In fact, Jones attended Kennedy’s Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2012 and was blown away by the experience.
“When I mentioned Walt in my Hall of Fame speech he was so shocked,” Kennedy said. “He didn’t realize his time would be right around the corner.”
As it turned out, Kennedy was voted to more Pro Bowls (eight) than any defensive player in franchise history, while Jones was voted to more Pro Bowls (nine) than any player in franchise history. Both players have had their numbers retired – Kennedy’s No. 96 in 2012 and Jones’ No. 71 in 2010.
The congratulations: “A Hall of Famer is somebody who brought it every game. You’ve got to be consistent week in and week out and you’ve got to be a player above the rest,” Kennedy said. “And that was Walt. I’m so happy he’s joining me and Steve in the Hall of Fame.”
In closing: “Walter is a man of all men,” Kennedy said. “When you say somebody is special, that’s Walter Jones.”