A week after the death of Seahawks legend Cortez Kennedy, the Seahawks took the field for organized team activities with No. 96 decals on the backs of their helmets to honor Kennedy, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Seahawks Ring of Honor. The Seahawks will wear the decal throughout the 2017 season.
While Kennedy's career ended in 2000, he maintained a close relationship with the team, meaning his death affected not just former teammates, but also current players.
"He meant a lot to this franchise," linebacker Bobby Wagner said. "Just being around him, he always tried to give young guys some knowledge that he had learned in the game, some wisdom. He went through a 2-14 season and was able to get defensive player of the year; he was a great player, but more importantly, he was just an awesome person off the field. Great guy to be around, funny, and everybody that he met, he touched in some form or fashion. So we're definitely going to miss him.
"It's an honor to wear his number on our helmets."
Last week, the New Orleans Saints took the field for OTAs with No. 96 decals on their helmets. While Kennedy spent his entire playing career with the Seahawks, he had a close relationship with the Saints organization because he was close friends with Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, who worked in Seattle's front office during Kennedy's playing career.
One current Seahawk who was particularly close with Kennedy is tight end Jimmy Graham, a fellow University of Miami product whose relationship with Kennedy spanned his time with the Saints and Seahawks.
"I've seen him almost every game I've ever played, especially at home in New Orleans and at home here," Graham said. "I was pretty close with him. It's very sad. He was such a bubbly guy, so nice, and every time I saw him, we'd talk about The U, what they're doing, how well they're doing. When I first got out here to Seattle, he was one of the first guys to talk to me about this team, how it operated, how his time was here, how the city was. He always had an open door and open arms to me. It'll be weird to not be around him and not hear that laugh again. Every one of my Seahawks games, I gave him a big hug before the game. He was always telling me, 'Do it for The U.' He had a lot of U pride.
"If you want to talk about somebody who was every bit as great of a man off the field as he was a player on it, it was him. Everybody loved him. He just had a pure smile, it was just a pure joy to even share a little piece of him and what he brought to this city, to New Orleans and to The U."
A public viewing and a celebration of life service took place Thursday in Kennedy's hometown of Osceola, Arkansas, with several former Seahawks players, coaches and executives in attendance, as well as Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin, head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, former Seahawks owner John Nordstrom, several members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and a large contingent of Seahawks employees, past and present.
"We just got back from the ceremony yesterday in Osceola (Arkansas), and I just could not have been more impressed with the impact that a young guy could have on so many people in so many different walks of life," Carroll said. "From young kids to players his own age to players that have followed him, and then his coaches, and the community, leaders from his school, it was unbelievable the effect he had. To be the monster on the field that he was, but to be this thoughtful, kind, caring person that he was off the field and connected with so many people, we were just blown away by the outpouring at the ceremony yesterday. We were very fortunate to be a part of it.
"He has had an impact here already, it's an impact we have recognized and want to continue to recognize and celebrate. We won't be able to in the special way that he did for people and all that, but the spirit of how he worked and what he meant and stood for I hope will live on. A fantastic guy."
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks Legend Cortez Kennedy.