Kenny Easley will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this Saturday – and for good reason. A former safety, Easley was a five-time Pro Bowler, a four-time First-Team All-Pro, the 1984 Defensive Player of the Year, and a member of the NFL 1980s All-Decade Team.
And yet, for 15 years – from 1987 to 2002 – Easley didn’t watch football.
“I didn’t watch football in any capacity,” the 58-year-old said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “Not college games, not high schools games, not pro games – anything. The only way that I was going to be able to get over football was I had to divorce myself completely from the game. I was 28 years old at the prime of my career, and my career was over. So for 15 years, I stayed away from the game.”
Easley, the fourth overall pick in 1981, played seven NFL seasons – all with the Seahawks. A kidney ailment, however, led to a bitter divorce from the franchise.
The background: Easley failed a preseason physical in 1987 but played anyway – despite, he says, doctors advising Seattle to shut him down for a season. Easley made the Pro Bowl that year, but something wasn’t right.
“I knew something was wrong, and they knew something was wrong with me because I wasn’t playing the way that Kenny Easley normally plays,” Easley said.
After the season, the Seahawks traded Easley to the Cardinals, but he failed a preseason physical, again due to his kidneys. Seattle took no responsibility for the failed physical, which led to a lawsuit.
Not to mention, for Easley, 15 years without football.
But then one day in 2002, Easley got a phone call. It was the Seahawks. They wanted to induct him into their Ring of Honor.
“I thought, ‘I’ve been away for 15 years, my children were pre-teens at that point, they had never seen me play football – and probably looking at me, would have never thought I played football before,’” Easley said. “So my wife said, ‘Look, how long can you hold a grudge? The people that caused you a problem are gone. Let’s do this for your children.’ And I said, ‘Okay, let’s do it.’”
Easley was inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor in October 2002.
“The fans were great, and the organization was very kind to my family,” Easley said. “It was just a beautiful thing.”
The relationship has remained solid through the years. Easley, in fact, was the Seahawks’ honorary captain when they won Super Bowl XLVIII in February 2014.
“The organization has just been really terrific to me,” Easley said. “I don’t have any gripes or any qualms abut the way that they treated me.”