Cortez Kennedy Enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame

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August 4, 2012

Below is Cortez Kennedy’s complete induction speech he gave at the Pro Football Hall of Fame ceremonies, held in Canton, Ohio on August 4, 2012.

This is awesome. Thank you, Dixie. I love you so much. Growing up in Wilson, Arkansas, it never crossed my mind that someday I would be standing here with all these wonderful players in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been truly blessed, blessed to have been surrounded by so many people that cares, blessed to be supported on and off the field, and blessed to have great parents to keep me humble.

To my dad, Joe Harris, you’ve always been a great balancing factor in my life. I can remember not doing my chores right, cutting the yard. I didn’t cut the yard right, and you made me cut the grass at 5:00 a.m. in the dark. You said, “Do it right the first time, and you won’t have to do it again.”

I got the point. Don’t take the shortcut.

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But since I’m older, if I would have cut it right in the daytime, what the heck am I going to do in the night time? I’m just throwing that out there right now (laughter). That don’t seem right to me. But thank you for the many nights we talked on the phone throughout my career, and thank you for teaching me how to be a man. I love you so much. Thank you, dad.

And my mom, I love you so much. I’ll never forget when you made me quit football my sophomore year for having bad grades. Do you remember that? My high school football team went to the State Championship. My mom sent me a postcard saying, Wishing you were here. I tell you what, that was a turning point in my life, because you know how much I love football. But when you sent me that postcard, it said you wanted me there, you should have took me there! But I understand. You care about me as a son more than a football player. I love you so much.

My senior year we ended up going 13-0. We won the State Championship. I’d like to thank my teammates at Rivercrest High School. I’d like to thank Coach Danny Graham and Mike Smith, who is in attendance today.

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I ended up getting a scholarship to Northwest Mississippi Junior College. My mom and dad sent me to stay with my cousin Lee English. Lee was my role model growing up. He was a great quarterback at River Crest High School. Anything that Lee did, I wanted to be just like him. So Lee gave me a job, helped me get a job delivering pizza. That didn’t fit well with Coach Bobby Franklin, my junior college coach. Always had a problem with my weight. So Coach Franklin said, “Cortez, where you working?” I said, “I’m delivering pizza.” He said, “What? You delivering pizza, Cortez?” I said, “Coach, I’m delivering pizza.” He said, “For five weeks I got a note in the mail; eat those pizzas or I’m going to cut you.”

So I came back to camp, got out of the car, and Coach Bobby Ray Franklin said, “Cortez, you look great.”

I’d like to thank my teammates at Northwest Mississippi Community College. I’d like to thank Coach Franklin and Coach Ron Stark for helping me get to the next level. I ended up getting a scholarship at the U, the University of Miami. Like Michael Irving said a couple of years ago, we love the University of Miami.

I thought when I went to Miami, I was going to be the big dog, until we had to run a conditioning test – a 20-minute conditioning test. After five minutes I broke down, I was tired. I thought I was seeing cowboys and Indians, and I was going to quit, but Coach Wyatt said, “Cortez, we do not quit at the U.” And I said, “Coach, I will not quit.”

So the next day we had to run 110s, Coach Jimmy Johnson said, “Cortez, you didn’t make it. We’re going to run another one.” So I panicked. If you have to run another sprint at the University of Miami… you know how Miami players are, they do not play that. I turned to Coach Shannon and I said, “Coach, I made it, Randy.” He said, “Cortez, we know that.” Coach Johnson was just playing mind games to see if you’re going to quit.

I tell you what, if it weren’t for Coach Shannon, I wouldn’t be here today. Coach Shannon, a lot of people said Cortez, you did it on your own. But I did a lot on my own, but Coach Shannon taught me how to work. I didn’t know how to work. He stayed in my apartment during training camp and would train me the whole summer. And Russell Maryland can attest to this. Randy Shannon slept on my floor at my apartment. I got up at 7:00 in the morning trying to get something to eat, and Randy said, “Cortez, get out there. I was like, Randy, do you ever go to sleep?”

But I tell you what, at the University of Miami with Randy Shannon, Russell Maryland and myself and Randy Shannon, we used to run – and these older guys can attest to this – that we had to lose weight. We had a black garbage bag, running the hills, trying to lose weight.

That’s how bad we needed to lose weight, and that’s how Coach Shannon trained me. But I want to thank Coach Randy Shannon for everything he did for me at the University of Miami. So thank you to Coach Shannon.

I tell you what, I’ll never forget that day when Coach Harrison came in that room and said, “Cortez Kennedy, you’re the starting right defensive tackle.” I called Randy Shannon and I said, “Randy, I’m the starting defensive tackle.” And Randy said, “‘Tez, it’s your job to lose.

I said I’m not going to lose it. That year the University of Miami ended up winning the National Championship. We beat Alabama in the Sugar Bowl – roll Tide, roll.

That year, I was the MVP of the University of Miami. I would like to thank my teammates, Russell Maryland, Grant Markham who is present today. I also want to thank Coach Jimmy Johnson, Coach Harrison, and Coach Ed Orgeron, my D line coach. Thank you, coaches.

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I’d like to thank the Seahawks owner, Ken Hoffman and Ken Behring. And I’d like to thank Paul Allen who owns the team now. I’d like to thank John Nordstrom, the regular Seahawks owner who is here today. Of course, I had my whole first year in training camp, I started two games. I played a lot. I made the all-rookie team. But I’m in Arkansas having a good time during off the season. I get a call from my pro player personnel director. He said, “Cortez, they got you in a magazine saying you were run up for a bust.” I said, “a bust? Bust what?” That means you didn’t have a good year, you sucked.

I said, “I tell you what, Coach Mike, I’ll show you. I’ll be better next year.” So next year I had six sacks in six games. I’m on a roll, I’m playing good. But you know with football players, we get injured. For four weeks, four weeks I didn’t practice. I played in the game.

Coach Knox said, “Cortez looks kind of heavy out there.” So that Sunday, I get a call to the office. “Cortez, we need to put you on the scale on Monday.” So I ended up weighing 323 pounds and my weight was 303. So I get called back to the office. Coach Knox said, “Cortez, if you are not at your weight by Friday, I’m going to fine you $10 a pound.” ‘Whew.’

But if any of my friends know me, I’m not giving up any money. So you can forget that.

So a little bird told me, you know those little birds. Somebody said, “Cortez, Chuck’s going to weigh you on game day.” I said “holy cow.”

Come Sunday, Coach Knox called me to the office again. “We need to weigh you.” So I get on the scale. I’m 305. I had a decent game. Played pretty good, we won the football game.

Chuck Knox called me in the office Monday morning. And I said, “Man, I feel like I’m going to the principal’s office.” Coach said “I’m proud of you, you got your weight down.” So me being a smarty, I said, “Coach, you didn’t say that when I had six sacks in six games.” He turned red. He said, “Cortez, get out of my office right now.” I said, “for real?” He said, “you get your smart aleck out of my house.”

I walked out the office, shut the door, I was like, ‘whew!’ I don’t have to weigh in Sundays anymore. Thank you, Coach Knox.

I tell you what, that year I made the Pro Bowl. I went in as an alternate. I called my buddy Jerome Brown. I said, “Jerome, I made the Pro Bowl.” Jerome said, “Cortez, you didn’t earn it.” I said, “didn’t earn it? What do you mean?” “Cortez, you did not earn the Pro Bowl.” I said, “okay.’ I said, “Jerome, I’ll talk to you later.”

So the next week we go to the Pro Bowl. Jerome said, “Cortez, come here, I want to tell you something.” I said, “what?” He said, “the reason I said you didn’t earn it is because you need to get voted in as a starter to make the Pro Bowl. Don’t back yourself in.” I said, “thank you, Jerome. I got the point.”

That summer we ended up losing Jerome Brown. He died in a car wreck with his nephew, Gus. I ended up changing my number from 96 to 99 to honor Jerome.

We only won two games that year, like Chris Berman said, 14 losses. I ended up being Player of the Year. That was a tough year. I felt so bad for Coach Flores being the head coach, because we didn’t have zero offense. Our defense was top 10 in the country. That’s bad when you go to the game and the defensive coordinator says, “guys, we’re not going to win the game. Let’s don’t embarrass ourselves.”

You know we’re in for a long year then.

I’d like to thank Jacob Green and Joe Nash. Jacob, thank you for helping me get involved in the community. You’re the one reason I started my football clinic in Arkansas. Joe Nash, thank you for helping me with my technique. And I’d like to thank my rookie club, my class that came in in 1990 with me. Robert Blackmon, Terry Wooden, and Chris Warren. I love you guys.

I’d like to thank my D-line coach, Tommy Brasher. You kept me going. You kept me focused. You taught me how to be a pro on the football field. You stayed on my butt and you never let me get complacent.

To all my head coaches. Chuck Knox, Tom Flores is here today, I love you, coach Flores. Dennis Erickson, Mike Holmgren. I thank each of you for your leadership and your support. I learned a lot from you guys. Thank you, coach Holmgren, for taking me to my first playoff.

Cortex with Steve Largent & Walter Jones

Cortez with Steve Largent & Walter Jones

I’d like to say a special word about a special person. A former teammate of mine, Walter Jones. You would be the next Seahawk standing up here, Walter. You have your jersey retired in Seattle, and a couple more years, Walter, I hope you’re up here in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Good Luck, Walter Jones.

I also want to thank my buddy, Daryl Fullerton. Darrell, thank you for helping me run my football clinic. My football clinic wouldn’t be a success if not for you, Darrell. Thank you.

I’d like to thank Mike Gibson, my personal lawyer, my best friend. Mike, thank you for looking after my business throughout my career and to today. Thank you, Mike Gibson.

Life after football isn’t always easy. We heard about that lately. I’d like to thank general manager Mickey Loomis of the New Orleans Saints. Mickey was the vice president of the Seahawks when I played there. I called him after I retired and asked, “Can I help during training camp?” He said, “Cortez, sure you can come work with us.” I worked for three years with the D-line for the Saints, the last six years as special advisory. I’d like to thank Mr. Benson for allowing me to be a part of the Saints organization.

I want to thank coach Payton for taking us to the Super Bowl. Coach, the ring looks good on our finger. Thank you, coach Payton.

One of the most important people in my life who instilled professionalism in me was my agent, Robert Fraley. You not only taught me how to be a pro on and off the field, you taught me how to surround myself with people possessing special traits. You stressed the importance of doing the right thing and treating people the right way. You were a great listener. Robert, if I had a problem, I’d come to you and it seemed like you could solve anything. You remain dear to me, Robert, and you remain dear to my heart. Everything you told me, Robert, I believe.

Robert, it’s been 13 years since we lost you in a plane crash. I miss you so much. I’m so grateful for Dixie to represent you here today. Thank you, Robert. And I believe you’re looking down from heaven right now. Thank you, Robert Fraley.

I thanked Mickey Loomis earlier. I want to thank Randy Mueller, who was the GM for the Seahawks when I was there. This shows the class act of the Seahawks organization. When I broke my ankle in 1997, the first two people that came to my house were Randy Mueller and Mickey Loomis. You don’t know how much that meant to me when I broke my ankle, and I’m sitting at home crying like a baby because I can’t play football anymore. That meant a lot to me.

The only problem I had with Mickey and Randy – you remember they used to have free agents come out? Randy said, “Cortez, you need to lose weight.” I said, “Lose weight?” This is during the off season. I did blow up to 330 pounds.

So two days later, a free agent comes in. I get a call from Mickey and Randy. “Tez, we need you to go to dinner with us.” I said, “Go to dinner with you? You just told me I need to lose weight. You need to make up your mind. You seem like you’re playing politics now.”

Seahawks front office staff, former teammates & personnel join Walter on stage

Seahawks front office staff, former teammates & personnel join Walter on stage

But, I thank you Mickey Loomis and Randy Mueller. I’d like to thank Peter McLaughlin, the Seahawks president. Gary Wright – I told you, I’d talk more than five minutes. Sandy Gregory, Dave Neubert, Julie Barber, Charlotte Kores, Cindy Kelly, Chuck Arnold, and Dave Pearson. I want to especially thank Eric Kennedy and Brad Miller. Thank you for making me look good on Sunday, guys.

I’d like to thank my trainers, Jimmy Whitesel, Toz Fraber, Sam Ramsey, and Paul Federici. Thank you, guys, for keeping me healthy. I’d also like to thank my strength coach, Kent Johnson and Dana Leduc. Dana Leduc, you know I love you, buddy.

Special thanks to my doctor. Dr. Brad Shoup, Dr. Kevin Auld, Dr. Ed Khalfayan, thank you for taking care of me throughout my playing career and today. Thank you, doctors. I also want to thank my childhood doctor, Dr. Reggie Cullom. Thank you for taking care of me when I was younger, and thank you for taking care of me now. Thank you, Dr. Cullom.

I love the people I work with. I’m not just talking about the players, but the coaching and equipment guys. I’m talking about the Seahawks 12th man. Steve Largent is in the Hall of Fame. I’m in the Hall of Fame, and the 12th Man, you’re in the Hall of Fame with the Seahawks. Thank you very, very much.

To my daughter, Courtney. You mean so much to me. I’m so proud of you and the student athlete you are becoming, and I trust every day that you’ll be the person that I thought you were. You know at the house in my room I always tell you this. When you were born, I held you in my arms. I prayed and said I will protect you. I will love you, and I will not let anybody harm you ever. Thank you, Courtney, for being one of my biggest fans.

But, Courtney, like we’ve been saying the last couple weeks, 250 more days, you got to get out and go to college. Get out of the house. You know you can always come home to me. Daddy’s little girl.

This day, right now, this moment, it’s always about those who came a long way, those who provided support, and those who have cheered, it’s all about the 12th Man. It’s all about those before, and who will come after. It’s all about my beautiful daughter, Courtney. It is all about the players and friends I laughed with over the years. It is about all my teammates I cried with over the years, both in victory and defeat. It’s not about winning or losing, it’s so much bigger than that. It’s about the relationship and about sharing it and working hard together. It’s about not taking the shortcut.

God bless America, and God bless the Seattle Seahawks. Thank you very much.

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