The tears welling in Jermaine Kearse’s reddened eyes told how much he wants to remain a member of the Seahawks.
So did the words spoken by the Lakewood native and former star at Lakes High School and the University of Washington on Sunday afternoon.
Seattle’s No. 2 wide receiver caught two touchdown passes in the second half of this 31-24 playoff loss to the Carolina Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. He ended up with a career-high 11 receptions, 10 after halftime, on 15 targets. He tied his career-best with 110 yards receiving.
“He was lights out,” quarterback Russell Wilson said. “Jermaine Kearse has done an unbelievable job all four years. He’s just made play after play after play. His determination, work ethic, his passion for the game, his poise … he’s got great hands.
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“He’s clutch, as clutch as it gets.”
Now he is due to become an unrestricted free agent in March.
Sunday’s scores were the fifth and sixth touchdowns in 10 career postseason games for Kearse. That includes the one in overtime 12 months ago that beat Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game and sent the Seahawks to their second consecutive Super Bowl.
In that Super Bowl last February, Kearse made a mind-boggling, juggling catch while on his back on the sideline late in the game. But many forget that, because his catch set up the most famous play call in Super Bowl history, Seattle’s choice to have Wilson throw from the 1-yard line in the final seconds.
In all, not too shabby for a former undrafted free agent.
Kearse has been catching throws from Wilson since he was scrapping to get noticed in a May minicamp in 2012 and Wilson was a third-round draft pick trying to prove himself, too, that spring.
Seattle has already re-signed Kearse once, as a restricted free agent last spring for the 2015 season at $2,356,000.
He turns 26 next month and last summer he got married to Marisa Ventura, so he wants nothing more than to return with another new deal to keep him and his new bride in Western Washington.
“I mean, in this moment right here I just kind of focused on that task at hand,” Kearse said. “Obviously there’s some decisions that are going to have to be made in this offseason. So I am just going to try to take it like that, like this season, just take it one day at a time and see how it goes.
“I mean, I grew up in the state of Washington. I would love to be here. But there are going to have to be decisions that are going to have to be made, and we are just going to have to see when that time comes.”
Kearse said the thought he won’t be back has entered his mind “a little bit.” Seattle already has No. 1 receiver Doug Baldwin under contract for one more season at $4 million for 2016. Baldwin set a Seahawks record with 14 regular-season touchdown catches. That tied for the league lead.
Rookie Tyler Lockett wowed all season as a Pro Bowl kick returner and No. 3 wide receiver. The trust he gained with Wilson and the coaches set him up for an even bigger 2016. Plus, the Seahawks expect to have prized tight end Jimmy Graham back in their starting receiving lineup for the start of next season; knee surgery ended his Seattle debut season in late November.
“I’m not oblivious to the situation that I am going to be coming towards this offseason,” Kearse said. “I just try to not focus on that and try to just focus on this team and just giving everything I can on this team.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle