After a long wait, Kenny Easley finally earned his place in football immortality. The Seahawks safety who had a dominant career in the 1980s was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Saturday night.
Easley was elected by the Seniors Committee, which reviews qualifications of players whose careers ended more than 25 years ago. He'll be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio on August 5 along with six other members of the 2017 class who were also elected Saturday: running back LaDainian Tomlinson, running back Terrell Davis, quarterback Kurt Warner, kicker Morten Andersen, defensive end Jason Taylor and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
"I will never get this feeling out of my heart," Easley said as he and the rest of this year's Hall of Fame class addressed the media in Houston.
Easley added that he appreciates this honor now more than he would have had he been elected when he was eligible two decades ago.
"I'm enormously grateful for this opportunity," Easley said. "To be reconsidered after 20 years, I'm glad it happened now, because I feel that if it had happened in 1997, I wouldn't be as grateful as I am right now at age 58 for this to happen. So that means a great deal that it happened to me now."
Known as "The Enforcer" due to his physical, hard-hitting style of play, Easley arrived in Seattle as the No. 4 overall pick in the 1981 draft and immediately made an impact on the field. Easley earned Defensive Rookie of the Year honors after recording 107 tackles and three interceptions.
Easley went on to earn NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1984 when he had a league-high 10 interceptions and 84 tackles, helping the Seahawks to the first 12-win season in franchise history. During a seven-season career that was cut short by a kidney ailment, Easley earned Pro Bowl honors five times and was named first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press three times. He was named to the 1980s All-Decade Team, which was chosen by the Hall of Fame selection committee, and prior to Saturday Easley was the only first-team selection on that All-Decade team not in the Hall of Fame.
Easley becomes the fourth player in the Hall of Fame who spent his entire career in Seattle, joining fellow Ring of Honor members Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and Walter Jones.
One person Easley credits for his induction to the Hall of Fame is fellow star safety—and 1981 first-round draft pick—Ronnie Lott, who is widely considered to be one of the best safeties in NFL history.
"Ronnie Lott has been talking about Kenny Easley going into the Hall of fame since the day I retired," Easley said on a conference call Friday. "He kept the drum beat going, and the remarkable thing about that is that he didn't have to. He was in the Hall of Fame… For him to say what he said about me through the years, never wavering, never ever wavering, always the same drum beat, it's remarkable. Absolutely remarkable from a remarkable human being."
Among the things Lott said about Easley was this quote to ESPN’s Mike Sando in 2002: "Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what Mike Haynes could do. He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete. Kenny, Lawrence Taylor and those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side, because they were not just big hitters. Now all of a sudden you were seeing guys who were big hitters, but also as athletic as anyone on offense."
Current Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who in a nod to Easley also goes by "The Enforcer," has known the former Seahawks great since high school, and has long seen it as an honor to be compared to Seattle's original star safety.
"He was a force to be reckoned with," Chancellor said two years ago. "So it's a big compliment to be compared to a player like him."
When Easley was named a finalist for the Hall of Fame last summer, Chancellor described Easley as a player who "set that mold for younger guys like myself to come up and play this game. Then just the fact that he's from my area, he's from Chesapeake and I'm from Norfolk, right next to each other. Learning about him in my last year of high school, doing my research on him, seeing what type of guy he was, how he played the game. I think it's an honor to play on the same team that he played on, and being called 'The Enforcer' after 'The Enforcer,' I think it's a great accomplishment for him and I think it's deserving."
Kevin Mawae, who began his career with the Seattle Seahawks, was a finalist for this year's class, did not receive enough votes to be a part of the 2017 class. A second-round pick in the 1994 draft, Mawae spent his first four seasons with the Seahawks, beginning his career at guard before eventually moving to center, where he would spend the rest of his career, eventually becoming an eight-time Pro Bowler and seven time first-team All-Pro with New York Jets and Tennessee Titans.
Take a look back at some of the best moments from the career of former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley, who was announced as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017 on Saturday, February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas the night before Super Bowl LI.