CANTON, Ohio — Kenny Easley entered his Pro Football Hall of Fame party on Saturday afternoon at Gervasi Vineyard with his wife Gail and their three children — Kendrick, Gabrielle, and Giordanna — by his side. The stoic and steadfast demeanor he would omit during his Pro Football Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony later that evening took a backseat, as the all-smiles Seahawks Legend — dressed fashionably in the iconic Hall of Fame gold jacket he received the night before and a pair of fluorescent-green light-up sunglasses fit for a rockstar — navigated his way through a sea of handshakes and hugs and proceeded to unleash his loose hips on the venue's dance floor alongside his partner of 35 years.
It had been three decades since playing his final NFL snap, and Easley was thoroughly enjoying his long-awaited honor as one of the National Football League's greatest players.
"I am so proud to see so many faces that I have not seen in a long time," Easley told the 200-plus family members, friends, former teammates and colleagues who were on hand to help him celebrate his big moment. "And I say thank you for traveling to Canton, Ohio to be here for this immensely, immensely important time in my life. I thank you all."
Kenny Easley and his family were featured guests at the Pro Football Hall of Fame parade on Saturday, August 5 in downtown Canton, Ohio.
Easley's Hall of Fame party in North Canton bridged the gap between a grand parade through the city's downtown streets Saturday morning and the enshrinement ceremony Saturday night in what was a jam-packed weekend of festivities for Easley set inside the small Ohio town dubbed 'the most inspiring place on earth,' a place fans traveled to from around the nation to see some of their favorite stars hit football immortality.
"It's been a terrific time for me and my family," Easley said during a roundtable luncheon Sunday at Canton's Memorial Civic Center. "The people of Canton have been really grateful and gracious to us. The Hall of Fame, I still haven't gotten my arms around this whole thing and what it means to me and what all the festivities mean. It's probably going to take me some time."
Joining Easley in the Hall of Fame this year were kicker Morten Andersen, running back Terrell Davis, owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones, defensive end Jason Taylor, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and quarterback Kurt Warner. Counting the seven-man Class of 2017, the Hall of Fame now houses the bronze busts of 310 individuals who left a lasting impact in the NFL.
"It's special stuff, man," Easley said at a Friday press conference. "There's only 310 [Hall of Famers]. How many football players do you think have played in the NFL since 1920? Over 98,000 have played at least one season in the National Football League. There's 310, that's it. Three-hundred and 10. Wrap your arms around that when you consider all the guys that are coming into the National Football League there's only 310. So you get selected into this class, man, you just have to say 'thank you, Jesus.' That's it, because there's nothing else that you can say."
Seahawks Legend Kenny Easley receives his iconic gold jacket in Canton, Ohio on the eve of his enshrinement ceremony at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Easley, who spent all seven of his NFL seasons in Seattle with the Seahawks, was inducted to the Hall of Fame as a senior nominee, defined as a player whose career ended at least 25 years ago.
"I looked at all the guys that are still on the senior list and I said 'how did Kenny Easley jump over this guy, or all the other guys?'" Easley said. "How does that happen? Only by the grace of God. So I say I am delighted to be here."
Labeled the original "Enforcer" before current Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor carried on the nickname in his honor, Easley was known for his extremely physical and hard-hitting style of play.
He arrived in Seattle as the No. 4 overall pick in the 1981 draft out of UCLA and immediately made an impact for the Seahawks. Through a career that was eventually cut short by a kidney ailment, Easley earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors, was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984, received five Pro Bowl nods, was voted first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press three times, and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1980s.
With this weekend's enshrinement in the books, Easley joins receiver Steve Largent, the late defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, and left tackle Walter Jones as the fourth player to spend their entire career with the Seahawks to enter the Hall of Fame. And of the 310 players enshrined in Canton, less than a dozen of them played at the safety position, something Easley hopes will start to change with his inclusion.
"Absolutely, and we're going to try to get more safeties in there, too," Easley replied when asked if his enshrinement can help open the door for more players at his position. "In terms of guys that are eligible now you've got John Lynch and you've got [Steve] Atwater, you've got Darren Woodson, you've got Brian Dawkins. So you've got a good crop of guys that we're going to try to get in there. And then you've got [Troy] Polamalu and [Ed] Reed and all those guys coming afterwards. So we're going to try to get as many safeties in there as we can. What, we only have like eight safeties in the Hall of Fame? That's a sham. We set the tone in the defense."
To cap his Pro Football Hall of Fame weekend, Seahawks Legend Kenny Easley shared memories from his playing days at the Class of 2017 Enshrinees' Roundtable in Canton, Ohio.
Two current Seattle players — Chancellor and Earl Thomas — are also on Easley's list of that next crop of safeties deserving of the NFL's highest individual honor.
"We've got some guys that are going to be genuine candidates," Easley added. "Then after those guys you've got Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas. … So yeah, we've got some guys coming. We've got some guys coming."
But before being named a senior finalist, Easley himself had given up on the thought of attaining Hall of Fame status. Add in the triple-bypass heart surgery he recently underwent, an operation that Easley has said put him “in a funk,” and Easley said this weekend's enshrinement did loads to lift his spirits.
"The one thing that I take from this week is that the guys, the Hall of Famers, they treat you as an incoming new guy like you've been here all along," Easley said. "I mean the hugs are tight and sincere, the kisses on the jaw, you don't expect that. You watch these guys on T.V. as a child. I remember watching Carl Eller and when I met him for the first time the hug that he gave me and the words that he said to me, I just wouldn't believe that that could happen to me.
"So all of guys are so special and they're genuine in their praise that you, as a Hall of Famer, deserve to be here. And it lifts you up. It lifts you up and you just feel that all the hard work, all the toil, this is the culmination, this is the end state, and it just makes me feel really special to be amongst the group."
Behind-the-scenes photos from Seahawks Legend Kenny Easley's Pro Football Hall of Fame party during enshrinement weekend in Canton, Ohio.