Kenny Easley’s Enshrinement Speech
Well, good evening! To all the family and friends and lovers of football all across America, and the world, thank you for being here today.
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 Philippians 4 and 6, and it says: be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication. With thanks giving, let your request be 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.
(all photos by Corky Trewin)
I know there are a lot of deserving brothers still out there, waiting for their call. Like Roger Brown from Portsmith, Virginia; Jack Tatum, the Godfather of big-time thumpers; Jim Marshall, Ken Riley, Cliff Branch, Steve Atwater (applause) – I thought you would like that one; Reggie McKenzie, Shaun Alexander, Brian Dawkins, John Lynch, Jacob Green – who 30 years removed from the NFL is still the Seahawks all-time sacks leader. Jacob is right down here today. And Dave Krieg, 19 seasons in the NFL, now who would of thunk it?
But there are perhaps hundreds still waiting, so I say to you my brothers in waiting: be anxious in nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanks giving, let your request be made known to God, and watch what God can do for you. Listen, He may not come when you want Him, but He’s an on-time God.
Thus I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content.
You see, this joy I have tonight, the world didn’t give it to me, and the world sure can’t take it away.
This Hall of Fame induction is like fire that’s been welled up in my bones. And I can hear the choir singing on this momentous occasion. I get joy when I think about it, what He’s done for me.
To David Baker, the Hall of Fame president, staff, and senior selection committee, and my fellow brother-members of the Hall of Fame, Kenny Easley, Hall of Famer number 306, is indeed grateful to be among your ranks tonight. And I thank you for welcoming me into your exclusive club. My induction tonight joins me with Clarence “Ace” Parker, and Bruce Smith, as Pro Football Hall of Famers from the 757 in Hampton Roads.
To my fellow class members of the 2017 Hall of Fame: Mort Andersen, Terrell Davis, Jerry Jones, Jason Taylor, LaDainian Tomlinson, and Kurt Warner, could be the start of a pretty good team. Wouldn’t you say so, Jerry?
Gentlemen Gold Jackets, these men right here, I make this promise to each of you: that I will forever uphold the dignity and the pride of the men that wear, and have worn, this gold jacket before me.
Forty-two years ago, my high school coach, Tommy Rhodes, told me if I kept working hard in school and on the football field, I’d be able to attend any college in the nation. And I believed it. Our forty-year friendship and player-coach relationship, in some sense, has come full-circle tonight, with him as my presenter into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. I only wish his late wife, Debbie, and my good friend, was here tonight to share in this moment with us.
To the woman I wedded thirty-five years ago, my devote wife Gail, thank you, honey, for standing with me, beside me, sometimes in front of me, but always behind me. Together we raised three unbelievable children: Kendrick, the thinker; Gabrielle, the adventurer; and our final issue to the world, Giordanna, the maestro. Some have said the wealth of a husband and wife lies in the quality of their children. If true, then Gail and I are wealthy beyond measure. Thank you.
My mother fell ill last week and was unable to be here tonight to witness her first born become Pro Football Hall of Famer number 306. And we miss her.
There was a lot of folks around South Norfolk, that thought I was making a very big mistake. Yet, even though my mom knew she’s miss me terribly if I left to go to California, she told me to go anyway. “It’s your decision, it’s your life.” Her final words to me: “Once you get through the security gate, I don’t want you to turn, wave, or ever look back. And by the way, you prove thm wrong.”
To my deceased father, Kenny senior, all I can say is that you were right. But you’ll have to read my unpublished book, to find out what my dad actually said. The title of my book: Force Five – The Enforcer.
To my three sisters – Patricia, Yvette, and Tracy – three peas in a pod. That’s how close they were, and still are. Good sisters, Godly women.
And my younger brother Keith, who paid me a great compliment when he said he was proud I was his big brother. Well, I’m proud of you as well as my younger brother.
The world is less of a better place without these two people: Stan and Shirlene Wainer. They’re no longer here with us, but were my surrogate parents and family in Los Angeles. I miss you, I love you, and thank you both.
Gary Singer and Ryan Wainer, I know you’re out there somewhere. Thank you for being here tonight.
To all the family and friends that have pressed their way to Canton this evening. From Virginia, Washington DC, Texas, Maryland, California, Arizona, and my former home, Washington State, thank you for being here and sharing in this incredible experience with my family and me.
To all the brother footballers who toiled with me at Oscar Smith High School, UCLA, and Seattle, it was always about one thing: all for one, one for all, boot ’em up, and no sweat. Moose, Greg Sherrill, Zeke Hill. RIP to coach Quarles.
To Mr. Paul Allen, the terrific owner of the Seattle Seahawks, thank you, sir, for reaching out to Kenny Easley in 2002 after a 15-year isolation from the organization. I believe in the old adage, that water runs downhill, and thus, that winning starts at the top. And you have run a great organization, with a terrific head coach in Pete Caroll. How about the Seahawks back to the Super Bowl in 2018?
Now, I have to confess. I may be a tad bit biased on this next subject. But to the greatest football fans in the history of the NFL, that occupy the old Kingdome back in the 70s and the 80s, and now in 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.
Mama Blue, I know you’re out there somewhere. You were 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 first 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? (Mama Blue shown on TV responds: “I’d be honored!”)
To my brother-member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Mr. Ronnie Lott. Our names and legacy will live on for at least the next 40,000 years – the life expectancy of our individual busts. 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 thirty years, there has been no better thumper, ball hawkin’, 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.
Now, some will continue the arguement, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Thirty years ago, as young men at Southern Cal and UCLA, then San Francisco and Seattle, and unbeknownst to either, we pushed each other to the pinnacle or our sport. And more importantly, through the years we forged a friendship that will withstand and carry us through the remainder of our days. One love, my brother, one love.
Swingman, Melissa, I know you’re out there somewhere. And I hope your footballer, Trey, will have the blessed opportunity to stand right here some day.
To Frank Cooney, from the Hall of Fame senior committee, who opined that he was just doing his job, righting a wrong. And a very fine young man named Bob Kaupang, now a Minnesota school teacher, who wrote to Kenny Easley as an eight-year old boy for an autograph, received it, and grew to become a fan and unrelenting supporter of Kenny Easley. Together, Frank and Bob crafted a narrative to re-examine the candidacy of Kenny Easley for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Thus, I stand before you tonight, a man touched by faith and the power of prayer. Ready to do the work that I have been chosen to do in a new chapter of my life, as a member of men on the mainline: a group formed to build bridges fom the valley of violence to an oasis of hope.
Please, check out faithhasme.org.
As such, 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 shootings 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. It has to stop.
And we can do it, and the lessons we learn in sports can help.
This is why I run an 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.
To start, I say congratulations to our spring league champions, Ben Kent’s Patriots, led by Coach Ben Kent and the superb running skills of Wesley Brewley, and the Southside Raiders, led by Parker Eldreth, Michael Williams Jr. and coach Jason Brooks. I’ll be home Sunday evening and our summer league will get under way in two weeks.
So get those children registered at www.nflflag.com/form/player and let’s get started.
Blah blah blah, blah blah blah… my teleprompter just went out, so that means I have to cut it short. So thank you very much, and have a good evening.
(The following is the rest of Kenny’s prepared text)
Hey, thank you all for being here tonight. And by the way, congratulations to Title IX for 45 years of outstanding women’s sports in America. Even this very significant piece of legislation took a sizable fight. I also say congratulations to Claire Smith, a black American and the first female to cover a Major League Baseball beat and the first female to be awarded the Spinks Award by the Baseball Hall of Fame Committee.
RIP to my brother Hall of Famer and all around good guy, Cortez Kennedy. Peace and blessings.
You can put a fork in me. I’m done.