A Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2012 finalist, Cortez Kennedy was a fixture on the defensive line of the Seattle Seahawks from the time they used the third selection in the 1990 NFL draft with the defensive tackle from the University of Miami (Fla.).
During his NFL career, Kennedy started 153 of the 167 regular season games he appeared in and opened his only playoff contest. Extremely durable, he appeared in the first 116 games of his NFL career, starting a club record 100, before suffering a knee injury injury that caused him to miss the fifth contest of the 1997 campaign.
Kennedy finished his career with 668 tackles with only three Seattle defensive lineman having recorded more stops, eighth overall among Seahawks defenders. He ranks fourth in franchise record books in sacks (58), yards lost on sacks (390.5) and forced fumbles (13). Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, Kennedy and Pro Football Hall of Famer Randy White are the only two defensive tackles with at least 150 starts, 50 sacks and eight Pro Bowls.
During his NFL career, Kennedy was named to the Pro Bowl a Seahawks-record eight times, also holding the franchise record of six consecutive berths from 1991-96, including four as a starter.
Having received one of football’s highest honors by being named to the 1990’s All-Decade Team by the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Kennedy was also named an All-Pro choice by the Associated Press five times, three-times as a first-team selection. He became the tenth member inducted into the Seahawks Ring of Honor on September 17, 2006.
Immediately upon his selection by Seattle in 1990, the Seahawks switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 to build around the tackle. Kennedy made an immediate impact as the Seahawks moved to near the top of NFL defensive rankings as they finished in the top ten each season from 1990-92.
In his first season, after missing his team’s entire training camp before signing a contract, Kennedy appeared in all 16 games, with two starts for the NFL’s ninth-ranked defense. He finished with 48 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble and a fumble recovery, as he was selected a first-team All-Rookie by the Pro Football Writers Association.
For his second season in 1991, Kennedy moved into the starting lineup, where he opened every contest. Kennedy’s ascension into the Seahawks lineup was a success as he finished third on the team in tackles with 73 and second in sacks with 6.5, as the team’s defense improved in rankings to eighth. Kennedy was selected to the first Pro Bowl of his NFL career, as he also opened up eyes from both the Pacific Northwest and nationally as he received All-NFL and All-AFC honors from several publications. In a 1992 season, where the Seahawks struggled to a 2-14 record, Kennedy enjoyed a standout campaign as the AP Defensive Player of the Year, recording 93 tackles, 14 sacks, four forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two pass defenses. Only four other AP Defensive Player of the Year winners came from teams with a losing record (Reggie White, Lawrence Taylor, Michael Strahan, Jason Taylor).
Kennedy captured AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors when he had a career-high three sacks at New England, Sept. 20 In 1993, Kennedy made his third consecutive trip to Honolulu and received first-team All-Pro honors, as he ended the year with 77 tackles, 6.5 sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Kennedy earned his fourth consecutive trip to the Pro Bowl in 1994, third consecutive as a starter and was again a firstteam All-Pro as he finished with 70 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.
Kennedy made his fifth straight Pro Bowl trip in 1995, as he tied for the team lead with 6.5 sacks, led defensive linemen with 54 stops and also had one forced fumble as the Seahawks enjoyed their first non-losing season since his rookie campaign.
In 1996, Kennedy made his second consecutive Pro Bowl appearance and was named his team’s Most Valuable Player as he finished the season with 69 tackles, eight sacks and two fumble recoveries as part of an NFL front four that combined for an NFL-best 40 quarterback takedowns. He received Week 6 AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors at Miami, October 6, when he finished with eight tackles and two sacks. Kennedy would have his Pro Bowl streak broken in 1997, as he only appeared in eight games due to a knee injury suffered in game four and a broken ankle later that would end his campaign prematurely.
He finished with 18 tackles and two sacks. In 1998, following an offseason of rehabilitation, Kennedy returned to form as he went back to the Pro Bowl following a season where he finished with 43 tackles, two sacks, and a fumble return for a touchdown, one of a team-record ten defensive scores for the Seahawks. He was voted by his teammates as the club’s recipient of the Ed Block Courage Award.
In 1999, the first season under new head coach Mike Holmgren, Kennedy would experience the thrills of the postseason for the first and only time in his NFL career, as the defensive co-captain was voted to a team-record eighth Pro Bowl for the AFC West Champions Kennedy recorded 73 tackles, 6.5 sacks and made the first two interceptions of his career.
He tied a career-high with a three sack performance on Green Bay quarterbacks Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck on Monday night football at the Packers, November 1 in a dominating 27-7 victory, part of a midseason five-game winning streak. In his 11th and final NFL season, Kennedy started all 16 games for the Seahawks and finished with 50 tackles, one sack and one pick.