The Seattle Seahawks family has lost one of its most beloved individuals and proudest icons. Cortez Kennedy, the Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle who spent all 11 of his NFL seasons in Seattle, died Tuesday. He was 48.
"Cortez Kennedy has been a pillar of the Seahawks franchise since joining the team as a rookie in 1990," the Seahawks said in a statement. "Tez was the heart and soul of the Seahawks through the 1990s and endeared himself to 12s all across the Pacific Northwest as a player who played with a selfless and relentless approach to the game. Tez was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer, and Seahawks Ambassador, but more than his on-field accomplishments, he was a loyal son, father, teammate and friend to many, possessing a larger-than-life personality and an infectious laugh. We extend our warmest thoughts and prayers to his parents, Ruby and Joe Harris, daughter Courtney, and entire family on the unfortunate loss of a life-long Seahawk. We are proud to have been represented by such a special person."
Selected by the Seahawks with the third overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft out of the University of Miami, Kennedy did not miss a single game in his 11-year career. He was named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1992, when he led Seattle with a career-high 14 sacks — the most of any interior lineman — and also recorded a career-best 92 tackles. He is one of just four players in the Hall of Fame to spend his entire playing career in Seattle, standing alongside fellow Seahawks Ring of Honor members Steve Largent, Walter Jones, and Kenny Easley, who will be formally enshrined this August.
"The entire Hall of Fame family is stunned and deeply saddened to learn the news of Cortez Kennedy's passing," Pro Football Hall of Fame President & CEO David Baker said in a statement. "On behalf of the Hall of Fame Board of Trustees, Cortez's fellow Hall of Famers, and our staff, we extend our heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and fans. Cortez will be remembered not only for all his great achievements on the football field but how he handled himself off the field. He epitomized the many great values this game teaches which serves as inspiration to millions of fans. Although he left this earth far too soon, the Hall of Fame pledges to keep his legacy alive forever in Canton."
An eight-time Pro Bowler for the Seahawks, Kennedy finished with 58.0 sacks, three interceptions, and scored one touchdown on a fumble recovery during his 167-game career. He was named first-team All-NFL in 1992, 1993, and 1994, and selected All-Pro twice, All-AFC four times, and was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1990s.
"I love the people I worked with and I am not just talking about all the players and coaches, I'm talking about the Seahawks fans the 12th Man," Kennedy said in 2012 during his Hall of Fame enshrinement speech.
"To my daughter Courtney, you mean so much to me. I am so proud of the student athlete you are becoming and I trust every day that you would be the person I thought you would. I always told you this when you were born, that I would protect you, I would love you, and I would not let anybody harm you ever. Thank you, Courtney for being one of my biggest fans. ...
"This day, right now, this moment, is all about those who gave of themselves along the way, those who provided support and those who have cheered. It is all about the 12th Man! It is all about those who have come before and those who will come after. It is all about my beautiful daughter, Courtney. It is all about the players and friends I laugh with over the years. It is all about the teammates I cried with over the years both in victory and defeat. It is not only about winning or losing. It is so much bigger than that. It is about the relationships and about sharing and working hard together. It is about not taking short cuts. God bless America, and God bless the Seattle Seahawks!"
The Seahawks paid tribute to Pro Football Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy on Tuesday night at CenturyLink Field, turning the stadium dark and illuminating his No. 96 jersey on the day of his passing.