Jermaine Kearse, the receiver who made some of the most significant and most spectacular catches in Seahawks history, announced his retirement from the NFL on Tuesday.
A local product who went from Lakes High School to the University of Washington to the Seahawks, Kearse began his NFL career as an undrafted rookie who started his career on the practice squad, and he ended it as a player who will go down in Seahawks history not necessarily as one of the best receivers in franchise history, but unquestionably as one of the most clutch.
In five seasons in Seattle, Kearse had a modest 17 touchdown receptions, postseason included, but even a casual Seahawks fan can likely recall five or six of them off them with vivid detail. In what was perhaps a preview of what was to come in his career, Kearse recorded his first career touchdown reception by hauling in a leaping 43-yard touchdown catch to give the Seahawks the fourth-quarter lead in a Week 1 win at Carolina.
Kearse ended that 2013 season by catching the go-ahead touchdown on fourth down in the NFC Championship game win over San Francisco, and by scoring a spectacular touchdown in the Seahawks' 43-8 Super Bowl win over Denver, a catch-and-run that saw him pinball off multiple defenders before sprinting into the end zone.
The following year, Kearse helped break open a playoff win over Carolina with a one-handed 63-yard touchdown, then in one of the most memorable plays in franchise history, he sent the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl with a 35-yard touchdown catch in overtime to cap a stunning comeback win over the Packers. Kearse also had one of the most spectacular catches in Super Bowl history, a juggling effort late in Seattle's Super Bowl XLIX loss to New England that got the Seahawks into in the game's final moments.
Kearse was never Seattle's No. 1 receiver during his time here, but he could always be counted on to come through in a big moment.
"What makes Jermaine an excellent receiver is that he's always focused in the moment," former teammate Doug Baldwin once said of Kearse. "He doesn't allow distractions or a lack of looks his way prevent him from staying focused in the moment. So he's always ready for the opportunity when it comes his way.
"You guys think of it as miraculous catches, but that's just what he does on a consistent basis when he gets the opportunity. So it's not surprising to us."
Along with Baldwin, Kearse became a leader of a scrappy, underappreciated receiving corps in Seattle that took pride not just in making big catches, but in doing the unglamorous work like blocking in the running game or making plays on special teams. Kearse recorded 153 catches for 2,109 yards and 11 touchdowns in five seasons with the Seahawks, again, relatively modest numbers, but it is impossible to tell the story of the most successful era in franchise history without including Kearse's significant contributions.
As Russell Wilson said after Kearse had two touchdown catches in a playoff comeback that fell just short in Carolina, "He's clutch. He's as clutch as it gets."
Kearse was traded to the Jets prior to the 2017 season, and went on to have his most productive season, catching 65 passes for 810 yards and five touchdowns, then after two years with the Jets he signed with Detroit, but a broken leg in the preseason ended his 2019 season before it ever got started. On Tuesday, Kearse made it official that his remarkable NFL career that saw him go from undrafted to the practice squad to postseason hero, has come to an end.
"Seattle, as a hometown kid it was a complete honor to represent you guys out there on the field," he wrote on Instagram in his retirement announcement. "Thank you so much for your endless support throughout my football career. It was an honor to put on that Hawks uniform and I'm so grateful I was able to help bring our first Super Bowl home! Something We will never forget."