Editor's note: If you missed Part I, check it out right here.
Kenny Easley was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the fourth pick in the 1981 NFL Draft. Having been convinced that he would be heading to San Francisco with the eighth pick, being chosen by Seattle was quite a shock.
"I never worked out for the team, talked to anyone from the organization or had any idea they would draft me," said Easley.
After the momentary shock had passed, Easley was on his way to the Emerald City shortly after being chosen and was committed to the Seahawks that he was "going to do what I do and that's run, hit and make plays."
And make plays he did.
In 1981, Easley was the AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year and in 1982 he was named to his first Pro Bowl. Although he was making an individual impact, the team had a losing record in each of these seasons.
Every fan has their own story and memories as to why they became a fan of a particular team or player. As a 10-year old living in Minnesota, I was a big sports fan but didn't have a favorite football team. I knew of the Jim Zorn to Steve Largent connection and the comedy of Efren Herrera field goal attempts in years prior, but hadn't largely paid attention to the Seahawks.
However, on Sunday, October 23, the Seahawks, under first year head coach Chuck Knox, hosted the Pittsburgh Steelers and I happened to catch the second half of the game. This was in the days when only a few games were available on television throughout the country.
Trailing 24-0 at the half, the Seahawks came back and showed fight, grit, and determination. Although they lost 27-21, I chose this team to follow, in part, because of its strong safety, who played an inspired brand of football that was fun to watch.
The Seahawks would finish the season with a winning record (9-7) and were play-off bound for the first time in franchise history. Easley led the defense by intercepting seven passes and was named first-team All-Pro for the first of three consecutive seasons.
After blowing out the Denver Broncos in the Wild Card round, it was on to Miami for a game against the Dolphins and their superstar rookie quarterback, Dan Marino. The game supposedly didn't need to be played because all "experts" agreed it was only a formality that Miami would defeat Seattle.
As they say, that's why they play the games.
Until the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, the divisional play-off game against the Dolphins had been my favorite game in team history. It was Easley's professional highlight, too. The Cinderella Seahawks defeated the Dolphins in a thrilling 27-20 victory.
The Seahawks were defeated the following weekend in the AFC Championship Game by the eventual Super Bowl Champion Los Angeles Raiders, a team they had beaten twice during the regular season. Even with that loss, the future looked bright.
The 1984 season started as badly as it possibly could when Curt Warner, the second year superstar running back, tore his ACL in the opener. Although the Seahawks defeated the Cleveland Browns by a score of 33-0 on this day, it seemed to many outsiders that the season may be lost.
However, the Seahawks went on to an impressive 12-4 campaign and Easley became the dominant defensive player in the league, as he picked off a league high 10 passes and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.
Even more than being the best defensive player in the game, he also finished fourth in the NFL in punt returns.
In the play-offs, the Seahawks avenged their play-off defeat from a year earlier to the Raiders in a 13-7 Wild Card victory in the Kingdome. It's one of the games Easley remembers most fondly because it was a great defensive game, as he said, "holding the Raiders to seven points was not an easy task with their offensive weapons."
The following week the Seahawks couldn't repeat their Cinderella performance in Miami from the previous season, as they lost to the eventual AFC Champion Dolphins.
When asked about a couple of individual career regular season highlights, each were from this magical 1984 season. In a game against the Chiefs, "We intercepted four passes and returned them all for touchdowns," he said.
Easley and Keith Simpson each returned one for a score and Dave Brown returned two of them to the house. What's more, Terry Taylor had two picks of his own, giving the Seahawks defense a total of six interceptions on the day.
A second highlight occurred at the expense of Dan Foutes and the San Diego Chargers on Monday Night Football when Easley picked off the future Hall of Fame quarterback three times on national television.
As a fan, the 1985 season was the strangest I can remember. The Seahawks won two in a row to start the year and continued to lose two in a row. It was a trend that would last the entire season. They would win two and follow it up by losing two before continuing the cycle through 16 weeks.
Regardless of the inconsistently consistent 8-8 season, Easley continue to provide stellar play from his strong safety position with another Pro Bowl berth and first-team All Pro recognition.
Injuries forced Easley to miss six games in 1986 and the Seahawks missed the play-offs, even though the squad finished with a solid 10-6 record.
The popular narrative insinuates that the game of Easley had diminished due to his physical style of play by the end of his career. However, to say that wouldn't be an overly accurate statement.
Easley never duplicated his 1984 season, just as Cortez Kennedy never repeated his 1992 season in which he joined number forty-five as the only other Seahawks defender to be named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. After Easley's 10 picks in '84, his next highest total was four, in his final season. After Kennedy's 14 sacks in '92, he would never get to the quarterback more than eight times. To think either player eroded significantly simply wouldn't be true, as each continued to play at a Pro Bowl level.
Although the 1987 campaign would be his last, he didn't miss a (non-strike) game and helped lead the Seahawks to the play-offs. He earned another trip to the Pro Bowl and was named second-team All-Pro. This is hardly the resume of a player just hanging on.
There was no thought of retirement after seven seasons in the league. "I was certain I'd play for at least 10-12 years in the NFL," he said.
However, the unthinkable happened on Friday, April 22, 1988. Easley was traded to the Phoenix Cardinals. Even more shocking to this 15-year old was that Easley failed his physical and would never put on an NFL uniform again.