Kenny Easley started the Seattle Seahawks’ long line of impactful defensive playmakers.
The title that cornerback Richard Sherman held and All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner now proudly wears once belonged to Easley, the Seahawks’ star defensive back in the 1980s. Easley spent his entire seven-year career dominating opposing offenses in a Seattle uniform.
Things between Easley and the Seattle Seahawks weren’t always great, however. The two had a long and bitter feud for nearly 20 years, one that only ended because of Easley and his ‘lemonade.’
Kenny Easley is a Seattle Seahawks legend
Kenny Easley played himself into the first round of the 1981 NFL draft with ease.
Easley earned consensus All-American honors in his final three seasons at UCLA, a performance which made him the fourth overall pick in 1981.
Easley had three interceptions and recovered four fumbles in 14 games as a rookie that year. That was the last time until 1986 that Easley didn’t make a Pro Bowl.
From 1982-86, Easley snagged 23 interceptions, recovered six fumbles, and had seven sacks. Easley earned first-team All-Pro honors and made the Pro Bowl every year. He even won NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1984 when he snagged 10 interceptions.
Easley and the Seahawks had a long and bitter feud
Although Kenny Easley made the All-Pro second-team in 1987, the beginning of the end was near.
Easley had been a leading figure in the 1987 NFL labor strike, which left him in bad standing with the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle traded Easley to the Phoenix Cardinals for quarterback Kelly Stouffer in April 1988, but a kidney problem on Easley’s part voided the trade.
A physical found that Easley had idiopathic nephrotic syndrome. Easley sued the Seahawks, their team trainer, and the doctors; he alleged that the kidney problems arose because Seattle’s doctors gave him an extreme amount of Advil.
The two sides eventually reached a settlement agreement. Although Easley received a new kidney several years later, he ended his relationship with the Seahawks.
Easley didn’t like that the team and its ownership group didn’t stay in touch with him after the kidney transplant.
Kenny Easley used ‘lemonade’ to eventually forgive the team
When Paul Allen bought the Seattle Seahawks in 1997, he made several changes to keep the team in Seattle and boost its reputation.
Not only did Allen prevent the team from relocating, but he went out of his way to make up with Kenny Easley. The Seahawks called Easley in 2002 and told him they wanted to induct him into the team’s Ring of Honor.
Easley accepted and received that honor later that year. Seattle also retired Easley’s No. 45 in 2017, less than a year before Allen died of septic shock from cancer treatments.
In a 2017 interview with Fox 13 in Seattle, Easley looked back on his feud with the Seahawks and said he applied a simple lesson when mending the relationship.
“When given lemons, you make lemonade. You make the best lemonade you can make and that’s what I did. That’s the lesson in this.”
That simple philosophy paid off, as younger Seahawks fans would never know Easley and the team had problems.
Easley entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier that year as a senior finalist.