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The story of how Kenny Easley's career ended has been well documented. His retirement was a sad day and it was the only time I considered jumping off the Seattle Seahawks bandwagon. In fact, had the trade gone down the way it was intended to, there's a good chance I would be rooting for the Arizona Cardinals today.
Talk about a strange thought.
That said, as much this teenager was crushed by the trade, it was absolutely nothing in comparison to the man and his family with respect to his playing career and health.
Easley said giving up football the way he was forced to give it up was, "The single hardest thing I have done in my life."
Much has changed for Easley since his playing days. When I asked about any highlights in his personal life since retirement, he responded, "All of my children have graduated college and all are currently employed, which makes me very happy. I have become a trustee in my church and continue to study the word of God for guidance and comfort."
Today, Easley says, "I am the league organizer of an NFL Flag Football League in Hampton Roads, Virginia. After over 30 years in business and selling my commercial real estate business in 2014, I thought I would do something that could help kids in a positive manner. As the honorary captain of the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, I had the opportunity to watch young children play in the Flag Football Championships at the Super Bowl and wondered, ‘Does this exist in southeastern Virginia?' Returning to Virginia, I got busy trying to find out as much as I could about flag football. After talking to a few folks with USA Football, I decided to make an application for a league in southeastern Virginia was granted that application in September 2015. Through the NFL Play 60 program, we show kids how to play the game properly and serve as a ‘feeder program' to the tackle football leagues. Almost immediately, a large municipal league director called and wanted to attach his program to our league as a feeder program to his enormous tackle football league."
This was an exciting development and, as Easley said, "Let the games begin!"
When asked how he's doing today, he stated, "I'm doing great. I walk and stretch daily, in the office by 9:00 a.m. and out at various hours of the evenings. I also work most of the time on weekends because our games are on Saturday's, but as we grow, I will hire a few folks to help out."
As a fan it has been nice to see his relationship with the Seahawks improve under the ownership of Paul Allen. He cites it as, "Good," and states, "The current ownership has been very helpful in developing a presence for the Hall (of Fame) consideration. I appreciate that greatly."
In addition to being the honorary captain at the Super Bowl, Easley announced the first pick (Frank Clark) for the Seahawks in the draft last April in Chicago. He previously raised the 12th Man flag in Seattle last January (2015) prior to the Seahawks defeating the Carolina Panthers as part of their play-off journey to Super Bowl XLIX.
I always like to know who the especially "nice guys" are behind the scenes and Easley specifically pointed out, "Dave Krieg is as salt of the earth as they get."
When asked if he keeps in touch with many former teammates, he said, "Occasionally, I talk to Dave Krieg, Jacob Green, John Harris and Terry Taylor and I see others at Seahawks games now and then."
A humorous story between friends involves Easley and Green. Easley said,
"It's the 1981 training camp and I am the first-round pick of the Seahawks. The year previously, Jacob Green was the team's first pick, and as such, Jacob is in charge of the rookie class. Every day in training camp Jacob wanted me to sing, dance, tell jokes, bus his dinner tray or purchase donuts. I knew the deal as the first pick pick, but he was relentless with his demands of my time. So, after about two weeks of this, I had enough and told myself, ‘If Jacob says one word to me tomorrow we're going to fight.' Again, had to be one of those divine intervention things because the following day, Jacob not only did not ask me to do anything, but never said a single word to me all day. This is a true story and thus, Jacob avoided a beat down from a man that was 60 pounds lighter than he was!"
What he still misses most is his relationships with teammates. "The thing I missed most were the alleged friendships I had with some of the players, but found out that once you were no longer in the game, there was no longer a friendship. That was my biggest hurdle to get over, my friends were really not my friends. However, this is not singularly to me, you ask almost any former player and they will tell you a similar story, the missed the camaraderie of their fellow players."
He continued, "Even to this day, some 30 years later, I miss that relationship with my fellow warriors."
When asked about the state of the NFL today and the emphasis on player safety, he stated, "Football is an inherently dangerous game and it is the danger that has made it the number one spectator sport in America. I understand the alterations other league suits have made in response to head injuries, but tinker too much with the violence in the game and the next thing you know, MMA Fighting will be the new football. It is a very delicate dance the suits are doing."
I asked if there was anything that he would like to share with fans. He said that although he was initially less than enthusiastic at being chosen by the Seahawks, "Now in retirement some 30+ years, I'm glad Seattle made me its choice. The fans are the best in the world, the organization reached out and brought me back into the fold after fifteen years of absolutely no contact, and Seattle has blossomed into a terrific city to live and visit. So, to all of the folks that sat in the dingy, but loud Kingdome and cheered your hearts out, now I say from my heart, thank you for making my experience in Seattle worth every moment of it."