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BREAKING: Miami Hurricanes Legend Cortez Kennedy Passes Away at Age 48

We’ll miss you, Cortez.

Arizona Cardinals vs Seattle Seahawks - September 17, 2006
Kennedy gives one last wave to his fans.
Photo by Kevin Casey/NFLPhotoLibrary

Cortez Kennedy, the Pro Football Hall of Famer and force of nature that anchored the Miami defensive line in the late 80’s, was found dead in his Orlando home early Tuesday morning. According to police, no foul play was suspected, but the actual cause of death has yet to be determined. He was just 48 years old.

It’s a sad day for the Miami Hurricanes family. Cortez Kennedy was an icon that accomplished nearly everything the gridiron had to offer and was one of the most recognizable faces when you think of the Hurricanes’ glory years.

Reaction from the football world was swift and outpouring, ranging from shock to general gratitude and appreciation for what such a great talent brought to the game. By all accounts, Cortez was also a stand up human being. He touched many lives and was always willing to take a young guy under his wing and share his wisdom of the game.

Kennedy’s path to football stardom began via Wilson, Arkansas, where he helped lead his Rivercrest team to the 3-A State Championship in 1985. After spending his first 2 seasons of eligibility at North Mississippi Junior College, Cortez was recruited by Jimmy Johnson in 1988 to transfer to the University of Miami, where it was instantly obvious to everyone that he was a special player. He soon became affectionately known as “Tez” and was mentored by guys like Randy Shannon, who put him through a summer boot camp of running 3 miles a day at the crack of drawn and eating only subs and salads in an effort to increase his conditioning and the amount of snaps he could play in a game.

All this hard work paid off for Kennedy as a senior defensive tackle in the fall of 1989. He emerged as a dominant force on what many considered to be the nation's top defensive line unit. Kennedy started all 12 games at DT and led a tenacious Canes defense to a magical 11-1 season, a victory in the Sugar Bowl over Alabama, and the 1989 National Championship. He earned second team AP All-American honors and, soon after, was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks 3rd overall in the 1990 NFL Draft.

Tez quickly became a mainstay on the Seahawks defensive line, as he didn't miss a game until his eighth professional season despite playing one of the most physical positions on the field. His unique combination of monstrous strength and agility made him a handful for even the best NFL offensive linemen and helped him rack up many accolades, being named to eight Pro Bowls, three All-Pro teams, and the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 1990s. Kennedy finished his professional career with 167 games played, 568 tackles, 58 sacks, and 11 forced fumbles. He won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992, despite playing on a Seahawks team that finished 2-14 overall.

Kennedy retired in 2000 and was named to the Seahawks Ring of Honor in 2006, having his No. 96 retired by the team. Not long after, he was inducted into the University of Miami Football Ring of Honor in 2008.

2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement
Cortez hugging his HOF bust.
Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

In 2012, Kennedy finally earned a well-deserved bust in Canton, joining the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He became the fifth Hurricane to garner football's most prestigious honor, joining Jim Otto (1980), Ted Hendricks (1990), Jim Kelly (2002) and Michael Irvin (2007). Warren Sapp became the sixth a year later in 2013.

He had spent the past several years as an informal consultant with the New Orleans Saints because of his close relationship with general manager Mickey Loomis, dating back to their days together with the Seahawks.

RIP Cortez Kennedy. Rest easy, Big Fella.