The opening video showed a younger Kenny Easley, in his Seattle Seahawks prime, sitting for an interview.
What he said embodied everything about his enforcing play.
“I’m vicious,” Easley says. “No doubt about it. I play the game in a vicious manner.”
So vicious that he now has his No. 45 immortalized as it hangs from the rafters at CenturyLink Field.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer was honored during halftime of the Seahawks’ game Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts. Now No. 45 hangs next to 80, 12, 96 and 71, coming 30 years after Easley last wore a Seahawks helmet. He also received his Hall of Fame ring, which he promptly placed around his right ring finger.
Easley was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and the 1984 Defensive Player of the Year after being drafted in the first round in 1981.
Those other numbers retired by the Seahawks belonged to Steve Largent, Cortez Kennedy and Walter Jones, with the 12 being for the fans.
“This is really terrific to be here tonight, to see my number retired alongside Steve Largent, my former teammate,” Easley said during a brief halftime speech on the field. “I just want to say that I’ve been a man touched by prayer. For the hall of fame to come down on me 30 years after the fact is really a terrific thing.”
It wasn’t always a sure thing.
Easley scoured from strong safety for the Seahawks from 1981-87 before a kidney ailment led to the end of his career at age 29. He eventually required a transplant.
It’s been more than a year since Easley had triple bypass surgery and now he’s the fourth Seahawk to play his entire career for Seattle and enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining Largent, Kennedy and Jones. He was inducted on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
But there was a time the Seahawks’ and Easley’s relationship was too sour to envision this day.
Easley was angry with the way his career prematurely ended. He not only avoided his former team, but the entire sport. A lawsuit involving his kidney disease was later settled out of court in the 1990s and he spent more than a decade, as he put it, “wallowing in my own anger.”
But in 2002 Seahawks owner Paul Allen helped thaw the ice between the organization and their once star defensive player and placed in him the team’s Ring of Honor.
Easley hadn’t watched a football game until that night, he said.
Allen, Seahawks president Peter McLoughlin and general manager John Schneider were on the field with Easley on Sunday, as were Largent, Jones and Courtney Kennedy, the daughter of Cortez Kennedy, who died in May. She also helped Largent and Jones raise the 12th man flag before the game.
The entire Seattle Seahawks defensive line and linebacker Michael Wilhoite — eight players in total — sat on the bench in the latest national anthem demonstration that has swept across the NFL.
All the players were black. Seahawks center Justin Britt, who is white, stood to their right, with his arm on Cliff Avril’s shoulder. And Oday Aboushi stood next to Britt as some boos hovered from the crowd.
That defensive line included Michael Bennett, who before the game met with military veterans, who also met with Indianapolis Colts players. The Seahawks didn’t leave the locker room during the anthem last week in Tennessee and Bennett had been sitting in anthems before that – with Britt’s hand on his shoulder.
In an interview on NBC’s broadcast, Bennett told sideline reporter Michele Tafoya, “My intention is to change the culture. We had to come to a belief that what we do does not define who we are. What we do does not make us. How we love – that defines us. And how we care for the people – that’s what defines us. That’s what we talked about. How can we care and how can we give to the community and show people that we have compassion for both.
“We have nothing against the military flag. We love the military and America. But, we don’t love oppression, we don’t love discrimination, we don’t love racism. For us, that’s what it was about.”
Colts players stood on the opposite sideline during Sunday’s anthem with arms interlocked. None of them kneeled like some did last week.
The Colts released a strong statement from its players a few hours before the game about the protests during the national anthem that have shaken up the NFL for the second week in a row.
Its intent was to clear the air about why they have kneeled during the anthem, saying it was not to disrespect the U.S. flag, but to raise awareness and push dialogue about “real equality, the injustices against black and brown people, police brutality, respect, unity, and equal opportunity. Our players are hurting, our people are hurting, our neighborhoods are hurting, and kneeling was a direct response to that hurt.”
Colts players entered the stadium wearing black shirts with “We will” written on the front and “Stand for … Equality, Justice, Unity, Respect, Dialogue, Opportunity” written on the back.
Two weeks ago it was free agent acquisition Eddie Lacy standing on the Seahawks sideline as a healthy inactive.
This time it was Thomas Rawls, who two years ago led the team in rushing and has since combined with Lacy to sit behind seventh-round draft choice Chris Carson.
Rawls entered with five carries for four yards and Carson has clearly solidified himself for now as the Seahawks’ top option at running back with 37 carries for 166 yards entering Sunday night’s game.
Rawls led the NFL in yards per carry two years ago (5.6) when he had 147 carries for 830 yards.
Right guard Mark Glowinski was a healthy inactive, too, for the second straight week. RB C.J. Prosise (ankle) didn’t play after not practicing all week and missed his 13th game in 22 regular-season and postseason games since the Seahawks drafted him in the third round in 2016.
WR Doug Baldwin (groin) was cleared to play after being listed as questionable coming in.
CB Jeremy Lane (hip) left in the first quarter and did not return, and Cliff Avril (neck) left in the second quarter and did not return.
The Seahawks’ selected Graham-Kapowsin High School football coach Eric Kurle as one of their coaches of the week, which means the school gets $500 to go toward its football program. NBC’s broadcast also showed highlights of Mt. Rainier’s 27-6 win against Kent-Meridian, which included clips of Mt. Rainier coach Tremain Mack, who was coached by Colts coach Chuck Pagano as a standout player at the University of Miami. Mack went on to earn a Pro Bowl appearance with the Cincinnati Bengals.