The 1981 Draft might be the best draft class in NFL history. The class was headlined by Kenny “The Enforcer” Easley was drafted with the fourth pick by the Seattle Seahawks. Prior to being drafted by Seattle Kenny was a three-time Defensive All-American at the University of California Los Angeles.
The 80s was a time in the National Football League, where the defensive side of the ball was as dominant as Offensive in the modern day in the NFL. The National Football League featured defensive Hall of Famers Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Mike Singletary to name a few.
During his rookie year, Kenny became an immediate starter at the Strong Safety position. He would go on to record three interceptions for 155 yards and scoring one touchdown and won the American Football Conference Defensive Rookie of The Year Award. In 1983, he followed up that performance with winning the AFC Defensive Player of The Year Award and recorded ten takeaways. In 1984, Kenny would win the National Football League Defensive Player of the Year Award. He would become the first safety to win the award since Dick Anderson in 1973. Upon the conclusion of the 1984 season, Easley would sign a five-year contract that would make him the highest paid defensive player at the time.
Kenny would go on to own a dealership with his partner Rick Johnson called “Alderwood Oldsmobile & Cadillac in Lynnwood Washington. In 2002, the Seattle Seahawks inducted Kenny Easley into the Ring of Honor and in February 2017 he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Hype Magazine recently had the opportunity to speak with the Hall of Famer Kenny Easley and discussed what it was like to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, and when he decided that he wanted to pursue a career as a professional athlete.
At what age did you develop your passion for football and this was something you wanted to pursue as a career?
I was about eight years old when I developed my passion for the game of football. I was watching a game between the Baltimore Colts and the Washington Redskins with my Father. During the game, I told my father that I was going to be a professional football player. In which my father replied, “That’s Nice” This was his only comment, but I knew right then and there that I wanted to be a professional athlete.
How does it feel to be immortalized in the hall of fame?
To have the opportunity to go into the Pro Football Hall of Fame 30 years after my career in the NFL is special. For someone to still appreciate your contributions three decades later that does not happen often in life. To a certain extent, I’m glad that happened now in comparison to earlier. I would not have appreciated this honor as much as I do now.
What was like playing in Seattle back in your era without the 12th man in comparison to now?
Back when I played in Seattle the crowd was not known as the 12th man that sort of came about in the 90s. After I retired from the game of football the city adopted the 12th man moniker, but back when I played at the Kingdom the crowd was called “Searockers”. They would just have the places rocking like you would never believe and now they play at Centurylink Field. The crowd used to perform the wave and that became a historic gesture and a fan favorite. Whenever the Denver Broncos, San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders during the days when we were in the AFC West Division would come into the Kingdom. The fans would start performing the wave and it was almost impossible to hear. This was the beginning of teams practicing with amplifiers on their practice fields to replicate the noise in Seattle. The wave was iconic back when I played, and it was used to disrupt visiting teams on a regular basis.
Do you feel you could play effectively in this era in the National Football league?
I feel that I would be able to play in any era that has happened already. If I were to play in today’s era, I would be fined on a regular basis in comparison to playing in the 1980s. The game of football has changed significantly since I played, but yes, I believe I could play in 2017 version of the NFL. I would just have to adjust my playing techniques to fit this era of football.
In your opinion do think that a defensive player will ever win the Heisman in college?
Probably not, but that is just my opinion I think back in 1981, which my senior year in college. I think Lawrence Taylor should have won the Heisman Trophy winner, but they gave it to a running back named George Rodgers out of the University of South Carolina. “Lawrence Taylor was the best football player in the land barring none and I’ll say it again barring none. Lawrence Taylor was the best college football player in the land and should have won the Heisman Trophy and if he shouldn’t have won it then Mike Singletary. Who was probably the second-best football player in the land and if he shouldn’t have won it I think I should have won it because I was a three-time Defensive All- American. If I wasn’t the pick to win it, then Ronnie Lott should have won the Heisman Trophy. If you look at our draft class and examine how many numbers one picks and then go look at the all-decade team of the 80s. Finally, research the Pro Football Hall of Fame. If none of those players in our draft class didn’t win the award that no one on the defensive, in my opinion, will ever win it. If there was such a thing as the NFL’s version of the Original Dream Team the 1981 draft class was it.
Do you think a defensive player will ever win the MVP in the NFL?
There have only been two defensive players to ever win the award New York Giants Linebacker Lawrence Taylor (1986) and Minnesota Vikings Defensive Tackle Alan Page in 1971.
In your own words, what did fellow Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy bring to the Seahawks locker room?
I did not have the opportunity to play with Cortez during my time in Seattle. He played after me, but he was the most significate defensive player in the history of the Seahawks organization. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler, three-time First Team All-Pro, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame 1st team All-1990s Team and was the 1992 NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year. I met him for the first time in 2002 when I was inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor. Cortez Kennedy was really a great man and he really befriended me when I was nominated for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. He would call me weekly to tell me what would transpire in Canton, Ohio. That was really kind of him because he didn’t have to extend the gesture being that we were just getting to know each other. We became good friends and I will always have a special place in my heart for Cortez Kennedy.
Post football and hall fame honor how is Kenny Easley enjoying retirement?
I feel my real career has just begun. I have an NFL play Sixty league that I’m involved in. It is the greatest thing that I have been involved in. Since I played football we had the opportunity to tutor kids from age of seven to fourteen. I’ll state this again this is the greatest thing that I have been a part of the outside of playing football in my life. To have the opportunity to watch and teach the next generation it is truly an honor.
What genre of music are you currently listening to?
I’m mostly into Jazz, but occasionally I will find myself listening to some of the favorite hip-hop artists from the 80s and 90s. Some of those artists are Kool Moe Dee, Chuck D, KRS-One to name a few. I’m still a fan of those individuals and occasionally when I’m in the mood that is what I’ll listen to.
Finally, when does registration start for your flag football league and where can parents go to sign up?
Registration will not be until spring of 2018 and parents can sign their kids up at https://www.nflflag.com/form/player