By Mark Vasto
I was once told that the day you stop trying to leave a legacy is the day your legacy begins. It has to do with humility and letting your actions speak louder than words.
It’s unlikely that there ever will be a Mt. Rushmore for defensive tackles. Nor is there a good chance that people someday will think about the guy who forced six fumbles over the course of a decade-long football career. They will, however, remember a guy named Cortez Kennedy when they think about what a football player is supposed to be on and off the field.
“Tez” was the kind of player you couldn’t ignore. A Hall of Famer who spent all 11 years of his career with the Seattle Seahawks during their raucous ‘90s … a graduate of “The U.” A guy universally revered by those who played with him and those who coached him.
It was sad to learn of his death at age 48. At the time of this writing, there was no official cause. The morning of his death, it was kind of striking and weird to actually read official Twitter accounts that didn’t make you cringe in embarrassment for a change.
Said the Seahawks: “Tez was an NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Pro Football Hall of Famer and Seahawks ambassador, but more than his on-field accomplishments, he was a loyal son, father, teammate and friend to many, possessing a larger-than-life personality and an infectious laugh. … We are proud to have been represented by such a special person.”
Said New Orleans Saints general manager Manny Loomis: “Many who will read about him in the coming days will read of his success on the field as a great Seattle Seahawk and Miami Hurricane; however, the full story lies in his loving, fun, positive and giving heart. In my many years working in the NFL, no one better exemplified what it meant to be a great player on the field, and yet that paled in comparison to what Cortez meant to the people who knew him off the field. People of all races, religions and nationalities counted him as a friend — athletes and non-athletes alike. We should all aspire to have as big a heart as his!”
Perhaps the greatest thing I ever read about the guy — and we’ll surely hear more about his charitable efforts in coming days — came from his first NFL coach, Chuck Knox. He was the guy that gave him number 96 and told him to play defensive tackle … if that was OK with him. Kennedy’s response: “Put me wherever you want and let the big dog hunt.”
Now that is a legacy. Rest in peace, Cortez. You were a killer tackle.
Mark Vasto is a veteran sportswriter who lives in New Jersey.(c) 2017 King Features Synd., Inc.