The wait was finally over for former Seattle safety Kenny Easley on Saturday night in Canton, Ohio, where the Seahawks Legend was officially enshrined as part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017. Easley becomes the fourth player to spend their entire career in Seattle to earn the Hall of Fame honor, joining receiver Steve Largent, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy, and left tackle Walter Jones.
Here’s five highlights from the enshrinement speech Easley delivered to a crowd of NFL fans on August 5 inside Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium: Read
1. “Be Anxious For Nothing”
Easley opened his speech with a passage from the bible, relating it to the unconventional way he achieved football immortality as a Hall of Fame senior nominee, defined as a player whose career ended at least 25 years ago.
“I’d like to start by sharing a passage from the bible that I’ve leaned on and counted on and trusted with all certainty through the years, and that would be Phillippians 4 and 6, and it says, ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgivings let your request be made known to God.
“I was first nominated for the Hall in 1997. Twenty years later, be anxious for nothing. The Hall of Fame was dropped on the shoulders of Kenny Easley like a pair of shoulder pads. Some folks said I deserved to be in the Hall earlier; I don’t believe that. Others said maybe he didn’t play long enough; I don’t believe that either. But my pastor, Tyrone Armstrong — here today, somewhere right down here — he said many times, ‘there is a season for everything and while we sometimes try to figure it out, God has already worked it out.’”
As enshrinee No. 306 of 310 throughout the history of the game, Easley issued a promise to his gold jacket-wearing brethren, which includes fellow 2017 inductees kicker Morten Andersen, running back Terrell Davis, owner, president, and general manager Jerry Jones, defensive end Jason Taylor, running back LaDainian Tomlinson, and quarterback Kurt Warner.
“Kenny Easley, Hall of Famer No. 306, is indeed grateful to be among your ranks tonight and I thank you for welcoming me into your exclusive club. … I make this promise to each of you that I will forever uphold the dignity and the pride of men that wear and have worn this gold jacket before me.”
2. Thank You, Paul Allen
When Easley’s career came to a close in 1987 as a result of a kidney ailment, the Seattle safety felt wronged by the Seahawks for how his playing days ended. A lawsuit involving his kidney disease was filed and eventually settled in the 1990s, but for 15 years after his retirement, Easley had no relationship with his former club.
In 2002, however, thanks in large part to the work of then vice president of communications Gary Wright coupled with the transition of ownership to Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Easley reconnected with Seattle and accepted a spot in the team’s Ring of Honor.
“Mr. Paul Allen, the terrific owner of the Seahawks, thank you sir for reaching out to Kenny Easley in 2002 after a 15-year isolation from the organization,” Easley recalled. “I believe in the old adage that water runs downhill, and thus winning starts at the top, and you have run a great organization with a terrific head coach in Pete Carroll. How about the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl in 2018?”
3. To The 12s: “You Guys Made And Still Make Pro Football Really Fun”
No Seahawks Hall of Fame enshrinement speech would be complete without a salute to the 12s, Seattle’s historically loud fanbase.
“Now, I have to confess. I may be a tad bit biased on this next subject,” Easley admitted. “But to the greatest football fans in the history of the NFL that occupied the old Kingdome back in the 70s and the 80s and now CenturyLink Field, they call themselves the 12s, I say thank you. You guys made and still make pro football really fun in the Pacific Northwest.”
Easley then called on Seahawks fans — and one super fan in particular — to help fulfill a request for him this fall. Easley said he’ll be in attendance at the Seahawks’ Sunday Night Football matchup against the Indianapolis Colts and would like to see 12s break out the wave, just like they did back in the Kingdome days.
“Mama Blue, I know you’re out there somewhere,” Easley said of the longtime Seattle fan who’s known for rocking her blue wig, feathers, fake eyelashes, and extravagant glasses on gameday. “You were a part of something back in the 70s and the 80s called the wave. Well, I’m going to ask you a favor. I’ll be in Seattle on October the 1st for the Seahawks Colts game and I’d like to see the wave performed just one more time for all the guys that played in the 70s and the 80s. Can you do that for a brother?”
4. Ronnie Lott “Was The Best”
Easley and fellow defensive back Ronnie Lott have shared a special connection since coming into the League together back in 1981. The two starred at rival schools in the L.A. area, with Easley at UCLA and Lott at USC, and the two were drafted just four picks apart in the first round, with Easley going No. 4 overall that year to the Seahawks and Lott landing in San Francisco at pick No. 8 by the 49ers. The pair pushed each other during their NFL careers and formed a bond that still holds strong today.
“Our names and legacy will live on for at least the next 40,000 years — the life expectancy of our individual busts,” Easley said of his relationship with Lott, a Class of 2000 inductee to the Hall of Fame. “Folks will look at our busts and start the debate all over again: who was better, Ronnie Lott or Kenny Easley? So I’m going to settle it now, publicly and for good.
“In the last 30 years there has been no better thumper, ball-hawking, fiercely competitive or smarter defensive back in the NFL than Ronnie Lott. He was the best. There, it’s settled, and because I said so.”
Lott, of course, begged to differ with Easley’s assessment.
“It’s not settled at all,” Lott said in a post-Easley-speech interview with NFL Network. “… I just know his soul for football is much deeper than mine and he set the tone. He set the tone back at UCLA, he set the tone when he came to Seattle, and he’s always been — to me — he’s been the one guy that I can follow. … He’s just an incredible, incredible football player.”
5. A Message For Social Change
Easley tackled a more serious issue and took a more steadfast tone with his final thought Saturday night, calling for America to stand up as a country to protect youth in African-American communities from random violence and police shootings.
“Please allow me this opportunity and this moment for a very serious message for which I feel very strongly about. Black lives do matter, and all lives matter, too. But the carnage affecting young black men today from random violence to police shooting across this nation has to stop. We’ve got to stand up as a country, as black Americans and fight the good fight to protect our youth and our American constitutional right not to die while driving or walking the streets black in America.”
Easley, a native of Chesapeake, Virginia, said sports can help the issue, using the flag football leagues he runs in his hometown as an example.
“It has to stop, and we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help,” he added. “This is why I run a NFL flag football league in Chesapeake to occupy children’s minds and keep them busy. I learned four decades ago, you occupy the mind, the body will follow.”