Cortez Kennedy, the 305-pound tackling machine who anchored the Seahawks’ defensive line throughout the 1990s, has passed away. He was just 48 years old.
TMZ Sports broke the news Wednesday morning. Orlando Police confirmed the report and added there was “nothing suspicious” about the NFL veteran’s death.
The Seahawks released a statement on Tuesday about Kennedy’s passing, calling him “the heart and soul of the Seahawks through the 1990s” and “a player who played with a selfless and relentless approach to the game.”
Kennedy was massive in both stature and the impact he had on the league. He started slowly after being selected with the third overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, but needed just two seasons to become a Pro Bowl invitee. His 14-sack 1992, an especially impressive stat for an interior lineman of his carriage, earned Defensive Player of the Year honors. It also marked the first of five All-Pro selections.
Kennedy was also an adviser to the Saints for a time after he retired.
“His loving and fun personality was often present in our building. He was very close to our owners Tom and Gayle Benson and our head coach, Sean Payton, but what I loved most about Cortez was the care and time he took in cultivating relationships with the equipment guys, security, ball boys, trainers, scouts, ticketing staff — the staffs that work long hours behind the scenes, he appreciated their hard work and recognized the contribution they made to any teams success,” Saints GM Mickey Loomis said in a statement.
In all, the Miami Hurricanes Ring of Honor member would earn eight Pro Bowl selections and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade team. Seattle retired his jersey in 2012, the same year he was inducted to the league’s Hall of Fame.
Despite all his hard work, his Seahawks teams barely got a taste of professional success. They made only one playoff appearance in his 11-year career — a 1999 defeat in an NFC Wild Card game. Seattle never won more than nine games during his tenure in the league.
Kennedy was a giant, the face of a franchise that struggled for relevancy through the first 25 years of its existence. His ability to change the game from the interior of the line set a standard players like Michael Bennett are trying to live up to today. Alongside Steve Largent, he was the most identifiable player to don the pale green and blue until athletes like Shaun Alexander, Marshawn Lynch, and Richard Sherman came around.