Cortez Kennedy, one of the best defensive linemen of his generation and a Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee despite rarely finding himself in the spotlight, has died. He was 48.
Police in Orlando, Florida, said the former Seahawk was found dead Tuesday morning. A police spokesman said the circumstances surrounding his death were unknown but that there was nothing suspicious. An investigation is ongoing.
“Cortez Kennedy has been a pillar of the Seahawks franchise since joining the team as a rookie in 1990,” the team 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 with a selfless and relentless approach to the game . . . We are proud to have been represented by such a special person.”
Kennedy spent his entire 11-year NFL career in relative obscurity in Seattle, and in 2012 he became the second Seahawk to make the Hall of Fame. He was a dominant tackle and a quiet, gentle soul away from the field.
“Cortez will be remembered not only for all his great achievements on the football field but how he handled himself off the field,” Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker said. “He epitomized the many great values this game teaches which serve as inspiration to millions of fans.”
Kennedy was drafted No. 3 overall out of Miami in 1990, and Seattle wisely never let him leave. The three-time All-Pro excelled for mediocre and weak teams, making the Pro Bowl eight times, He earned the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in 1992, when he had 14 sacks, 27 tackles for loss and 92 tackles for a 2-14 team.
“Really sad to lose a guy like Cortez Kennedy,” tweeted John Elway, the Broncos’ general manager and former quarterback. “A great personality, a great player, and I enjoyed competing against him.”
After retiring following the 2000 season, Kennedy remained part of the Seahawks’ organization. He was a mainstay during training camp and occasionally chatted with players, coaches and media in the locker room during the regular season.
Kennedy was scheduled to be in Seattle Thursday as part of an event for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games.
“My heart hurts,” current Seahawks offensive lineman Justin Britt tweeted. “We lost a truly great player but even better person.”
The Seahawks had little success during Kennedy’s career, compiling a record of 76-100 and making the playoffs only once, losing a wild-card game in the 1999 season.
What made Kennedy so difficult to stop was his low center of gravity, unexpected quickness and remarkable strength packaged in a 6-2, 300-pound frame. On running plays, he regularly would eat up two or three potential blockers. He also could rush the passer, a rarity for an interior lineman, and recorded at least six sacks in six seasons.
“(One) of the most talented players I ever recruited or coached,” tweeted Jimmy Johnson, one of Kennedy’s coaches at Miami. “A sad day.”