(Kenny Easley photos courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks)
Talk of Fame Network
Kenny Easley was one of the top safeties in the modern era of pro football, but his career was short – so short, in fact, that he never was a Hall-of-Fame finalist.
Well, now he is.
The former Seattle star is the Hall of Fame’s senior nominee for the Class of 2017, with Easley on Monday named ahead of 14 others competing for one spot. The selection was a mild surprise, with linebacker Robert Brazile, former offensive lineman Jerry Kramer and Easley among the favorites.
But Easley is deserving — the only member of the 1980s’ all-decade first-team defense not in Canton and no less an authority than Hall-of-Famer Ronnie Lott telling the Talk of Fame Network that Easley was the best to play the position.
“Kam Chancellor right now is as good as any safety that’s played the game of football,” Lott said on the TFN Network earlier this year. “It’s hard for me to say this, but there’s only one guy I know that was better, and that’s Kenny Easley. He was Defensive Player of the Year and the best player to play the position, ever.
“Kenny could do what Jack Tatum could do, but he also could do what corners could do. He could do what Mike Haynes could do. He was not only a great hitter and great intimidator on the field, but he was a great athlete. In that day, what made him so special — him (and) Lawrence Taylor — those guys changed the game of football on the defensive side because they were not just guys; they were big hitters. Now, all of a sudden, you were seeing guys who not just big hitters but also as athletic as anyone on offense.”
Though he played only seven seasons, Easley made the most of them – five times named to the Pro Bowl, chosen the 1981 NFL Rookie of the Year and the 1984 Defensive Player of the Year and named to the 1980s’ all-decade team. But his career was cut short by a kidney disease, and his name all but forgotten.
Now comes the hard part: Passing the test of the Hall’s board of selectors, which grew to 48 this year with the addition of former players Dan Fouts and James Lofton, both Hall-of-Fame members. To make it, Easley must receive 80 percent of the vote when the board meets Feb. 4, 2017, one day prior to Super Bowl LI.
Sound simple? It may not be. Remember: For some reason, the Hall has been biased against safeties. Only seven pure safeties are in Canton, with Kenny Houston the last to play. He retired after the 1980 season.
Then there’s the matter of championships. Over 70 percent of Hall-of-Fame inductees played on an NFL championship team or Super Bowl winner. Easley played on neither.