When the Seahawks needed some big plays to spark what they hoped would be a historic comeback in an eventual divisional-round loss to the Carolina Panthers last month, it hardly came as a surprise that Jermaine Kearse ended up being one of Russell Wilson's go-to targets in a 24-point second half.
While Kearse has never been Seattle's No. 1 receiver, he has throughout his career been one of the very best at his position on the biggest stages. A former undrafted free agent out of the University of Washington, Kearse began his career on Seattle's practice squad in 2012, eventually was promoted to the 53-man roster that year, and has been a starter for the past two seasons. And Kearse did all of that—not to mention getting married last summer—prior to his 26th birthday, which is today.
Kearse has been a very solid contributor to the team on offense and special teams throughout his career, but he has taken his game to another level in the postseason. In the eight postseason games in which Kearse has seen significant playing time at receiver, he has hauled in 28 catches for 471 yards, including six touchdowns.
And we're not talking run-of-the-mill, forgettable scores, we're talking about a fourth-quarter go-ahead score in one NFC Championship game; a game-winner in overtime of another; a one-handed, 63-yarder against Carolina in the divisional round last year; and one of the better individual efforts you'll ever see in a Super Bowl XLVIII victory. And against the Panthers last month, Kearse continued his playoff hot streak with a career-high 11 catches for 110 yards and two scores.
"I think he had a great game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Kearse's performance against Carolina. "…He continues to, in the big game settings, he just seems to make big plays happen. He can do it all throughout the year, but he seems to have a knack for being in the right place to make a special play, and they're not easy either. The touchdown that he makes for the first one, and the other one was tipped right before he caught the football. The other great catches, the best catch of the day was his one on the sidelines. A phenomenal catch and body control to stay in bounds and all of that. He's a terrific player. He really is. I don't know if other people appreciate him like we do. We love him in our system and we'd love him to stay with us."
That last sentence from Carroll is in reference to the fact that Kearse is headed towards unrestricted free agency this offseason. And after a career-best season with 49 catches for 685 yards and five touchdowns, Kearse figures to be in demand when the new league year begins next month.
Whatever happens, Kearse has already made a place for himself in Seahawks lore with some of the most important postseason catches in franchise history, all before turning 26. So today we wish a big day to a player who knows how to make the most out of big occasions.
Happy birthday to former UW Dawg and Lakewood, WA. native, Jermaine Kearse who turns 26 today!