Had some stuff left over that didn’t get into the column I did with Cortez Kennedy for the Friday TNT, so I thought I’d share it here.
He lives in one of those swanky Orlando-area golf communities (although he says he doesn’t golf much). It sounds as if he’s spending a lot of time just being a good dad to his 15-year-old, Courtney. She called him to report on her after-school whereabouts while I was interviewing him. At the time we talked, he said he was eating “Chinese” and that he eats a lot of fish and sushi and his weight is 280. When I saw him in the Gary Wright Press Box at Qwest Field when the Saints came out for the playoff game, he had on a nicely tailored suit and wire-rimmed glasses … he could have passed for a banker.
Because if his association with Saints GM Mickey Loomis, he says he’s something of an unpaid, unofficial advisor to the Saints. He said that Loomis and Randy Mueller were so helpful to him when he was getting started with the Seahawks. Along with his agent, the late Robert Fraley, they were instrumental in getting him squared away financially.
Terry Wooden remembered getting to know him as rookies together, and said that when you first eyeballed him, you didn’t really have any reason to think he was an incredible athlete, but he said then you saw that he could dunk a basketball at well over 300 pounds, and his get-off at the snap was killer. He said it’s unbelievable when you go around with Tez just how many people around the league know and love and respect him. Apparently, when Tez and John Randle get together, they “bow down” to each other. Tez said that Randle told him “you belong in here,” referring to the Hall of Fame, to which Randle was inducted, and Tez again is a finalist.
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When I asked Tez about his most important accomplishment, he said it was the friends he made on his team and around the league. Wooden and Dave Wyman both talked about what a great teammate he was. Wyman told me about Tez being an insomniac, even during two-a-days at training camp, so he would just walk the halls at night looking for something to do. Wyman said he went to the bathroom at 3 a.m. (and of course didn’t think he needed to lock his door) and when he came back and laid down, Tez jumped out of his tiny closet and “yelled something hokey like, Boo!” Wyman said. He called him “a gem” and he absolutely deserves to be in the HoF.
Wooden said he had two persona, one on the field and one anywhere outside the lines. He was always jovial and good natured, until he went on the field. “On the sidelines he might be joking around and telling a story or something, and then you’d get on the field and he’d destroy the offense for five or six players, whatever, and then he’d come off and start kidding around again.”
I couldn’t believe it when I reviewed the stats on his ’92 season, making 92 tackles with 14 sacks from the defensive tackle position. An equally stunning stat in some ways was in ’91 when he had 12 passes defensed/deflected.
He’s again facing a lot of impressive names on the finalist list. He talked about what an honor it was just to be included in that group. Of course it means a lot more to him than just that. But he’s never been one to tout himself. I covered the Hawks through his entire career, and have to say he’s probably the most humble big-time player I’ve ever dealt with. On the day he was drafted, 21 years ago, I got through to him at the family home in Arkansas. A party was going on, of course, but he told everybody to shush so he could talk to a reporter. Now, on the phone, he sounds a great deal like the same humble gentleman.