After a lengthy, six-year wait, the Pro Football Hall of Fame finally opened its doors for Cortez Kennedy.
The former Seattle Seahawks defensive tackle was one of five, modern-day players elected to the Hall of Fame on Saturday, joining running back Curtis Martin, offensive lineman Dermontti Dawson, defensive end Chris Doleman and offensive tackle Willie Roaf.
Kennedy’s election means he received at least 80 percent of the votes from the 44-person selection committee.
Senior committee finalist Jack Butler, a cornerback, also was elected to the Hall of Fame.
A finalist for the fourth time this year, Kennedy watched the announcement on TV from his home in Orlando, Fla., and will now fly to Indianapolis today to join the Super Bowl festivities.
Although he had to wait patiently to earn his latest accolade, Kennedy was pleased to be part of that exclusive club.
“It was one of the greatest feelings in the world when my name got called out,” Kennedy said. “But it was a long process.”
Kennedy becomes the second person who played their entire career in Seattle elected to the Hall of Fame, joining receiver Steve Largent. And he’ll be the seventh person to play for the Seahawks to be inducted into the Hall.
Other players who performed with Seattle and are in are Carl Eller, Franco Harris, Warren Moon, Jerry Rice and John Randle.
Former Seahawks front office executive Mike McCormack is in the Hall for his playing days in New York and Cleveland.
While Kennedy played on only two teams with winning records and in just one playoff game during his 11-year career, a closer look at his accomplishments tells the story of why he’s a Hall of Famer.
Selected No. 3 overall by the Seahawks in the 1990 draft, Kennedy was voted to eight Pro Bowls – only recently retired offensive tackle Walter Jones (nine) went to more for the Seahawks.
Kennedy was named the defensive player of the year in 1992 as part of a 2-14 Seattle team, and he led the Seahawks in sacks in 1992 and 1995. He finished his career with 58 sacks – a high number for a defensive tackle – completed seven seasons without missing a game and played in at least 15 games 10 times. Kennedy was named to the NFL’s all-decade team for the 1990s.
Kennedy is the 14th defensive tackle to make it into the Hall of Fame. Kennedy was inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in 2006.
Former Seahawks center Rob Tobeck, who played with Kennedy for a season and against him twice as a member of the Atlanta Falcons, can vouch for the stout defensive tackle’s dominance on the field.
“You had to know where he was,” Tobeck said. “You had to have a second pair of eyes on him. He commanded a double team.
“He was an incredible talent and really a good guy. No doubt it’s good seeing another Seahawk, a teammate and a guy that you played with and that you had a lot of respect for as an opponent getting in. He was just a great guy. And to see a guy that was also such a good teammate makes me happy.”
Tobeck got a steady diet of Kennedy’s impressive athletic ability at practice during the week.
“Even in practice, when the offensive line goes down and does one-on-one pass drills, you had to be quick to get to your set because he was so quick and explosive off the ball,” Tobeck said.
“He had great hands, too. I think that sometimes doesn’t get talked a lot in line play – playing off blocks with your hands – but he certainly was good with his hands.”
Martin finished with 14,101 yards and 90 touchdowns in 12 seasons with the New York Jets and New England, rushing for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first 10 seasons.
Doleman totaled 1501/2 sacks in 15 seasons, mostly with Minnesota, went to eight Pro Bowls and was fourth on the career sacks list when he retired.
Roaf made 11 Pro Bowls during his 13 seasons with New Orleans and Kansas City as one of the most dominant left tackles ever to play.
Dawson had big shoes to fill in Pittsburgh, replacing Steelers legend and Hall of Famer Mike Webster. And Dawson proved to be up to the task, making seven Pro Bowls in 13 seasons.
The finalists who did not make the final cut were receivers Cris Carter and Andre Reed, coach Bill Parcells, defensive end Charles Haley and cornerback Aeneas Williams.
Candidates who did not make the final 10 were receiver Tim Brown, running back Jerome Bettis, offensive lineman Will Shields, linebacker Kevin Greene and former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo.