Clayton: Former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley grateful to take his place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Kenny Easley didn’t hold back when meeting with reporters at the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Friday.
The former Seahawks safety’s long wait getting into the Hall of Fame didn’t bother him. He considered himself blessed to finally make it. You could tell he did plenty of research on Hall of Famers; Easley said he and Terrell Davis were among 11 players who made the Hall of Fame despite having a short career (seven years or less).
Easley sat in a chair talking about how even he wondered how he made the Hall over some of the greats who didn’t get in. There is no question Easley deserved the selection, though.
“Look, if you get selected, whether you deserve it or not is irrelevant,” Easley said. “Once they make you a Hall of Famer, you are a Hall of Famer for life. I’m just grateful that I came though the senior division. Looking at the senior guys who are still on the list, I think, ‘How did I get in here other than the grace of God?’ There are so many guys I watched as a kid who didn’t get in and their names are still there.”
What probably isn’t appreciated is what an incredible athlete he was. Easley told the story about being recruited by colleges, and how he was wowed visiting Michigan and head coach Bo Schembechler. Believe or not, Schembechler wanted Easley to be his quarterback.
Easley was a high-school quarterback who rushed for over 1,000 yards, but his goal was play defense. On defense, he could hit offensive players. He also loved diagnosing plays. Easley told Schembechler of his goal to be a safety, only to hear Schembechler say, “Safeties are a dime a dozen.”
What impressed Easley was Michigan’s stadium. The 100,000-seat venue stayed in his mind as he was making his decision. He kept seeing himself playing before such a crowd.
But in came UCLA. Jed Hughes, a UCLA assistant, recruited him hard and wanted him to be a safety. That caused Easley to ask Schembechler if he would promise him not to make him a quarterback at some point in his college career.
Being honest, Schembechler said he couldn’t make that promise. Easley then chose UCLA.
Had his career lasted 10 or more years, Easley might have been considered the greatest safety in NFL history. He had 32 interceptions during his seven-year career. He was Defensive Player of the Year in 1984.
“Kenny could just take over a game,” former Seahawks defensive end Jacob Green said. “He’s such a great athlete, he could played a lot of different positions in lot of sports. He was that great of an athlete.”
But safety was the position he cherished.
“If my career didn’t end early, I think I would have been the greatest strong safety in NFL history,” Easley said. “I could have been the best free safety. I knew how to play free safety, but playing 11 and 12 yards off the ball is different. It’s a slower game. When you play strong safety, you are four to six yards off the line of scrimmage. The game comes at you faster.’’
Good thing he didn’t go to a school that would have made him a quarterback.
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