Jermaine Kearse is one of the most crucial figures of the Seahawks’ rise to NFL prominence in the mid 2010s. As weird as that may be to say about a receiver who never eclipsed 1,000 yards in a season, Kearse was at the heart of some of the team’s most legacy-defining moments.
Growing up a Seahawks fan, my dad and I used to latch onto certain, lesser talked about players. We’d give them silly nicknames and celebrate their occasional successes in incredible fashion as if they were family. He and I used to refer to Kearse as “Big Game Jermaine,” a moniker that became very fitting for the eight-year veteran who seemingly found a way to come up in the clutch whenever the calendar flipped to January.
Often considered no more than a tertiary option in Seattle’s offense at best, Kearse was a dependable target of Russell Wilson early in the star quarterback’s career. The University of Washington alum never put up huge numbers and would occasionally disappear from the Seahawks’ game plan altogether during the regular season, but once the stage got bigger and the lights got brighter, he appeared tailor-made for the moment.
Kearse posted game-highs in receiving yards (129; he would later break this with the Jets in 2017 with 158) and receptions (11) in separate playoff games, both of which came against the Panthers. In total, the wideout amassed six touchdowns and 493 yards on 31 catches in 12 career postseason games.
But it’s the moments in which Kearse starred that outweigh any statistic—four of which, in fact. There is, of course, his 23-yard touchdown reception in Super Bowl XLVIII in which he bounced off four Broncos defenders to extend the Seahawks’ lead to 35-0 in their eventual 43-8 championship victory. One may also remember Kearse’s improbable bobbling grab on his back in Super Bowl XLIX to set up Seattle’s offense deep in the red zone on its final drive of the game, though it’s understandable if Seahawks fans have blocked that from their memory banks given what ensued afterward.
Without Kearse, however, it’s possible the Seahawks may not have had the opportunity to play in either of those Super Bowls. It was Kearse on the receiving end of a daring 35-yard touchdown from Wilson on fourth-and-7 to give them a 20-17 lead that would prove to be enough to hold off the 49ers in the 2013 NFC championship game.
The following year, back in the NFC championship, Kearse would be targeted on all four of Wilson’s interceptions against the Packers. To make matters worse, he had yet to record a single catch on five total targets. That would soon be rectified in overtime and all would be forgiven as Wilson delivered his best throw of the game right into the bread basket of Kearse for the game-winner to cap off the Seahawks’ surrealistic 28-22 comeback win. To this day, that catch may be the most iconic offensive play in Seahawks history and certainly a top career moment for Kearse, who triumphantly and emotionally rocketed the ball into the stands with tears of relief and jubilation in his eyes.
It’s a moment that will forever be ingrained in the minds of Seahawks fans everywhere, new and old. One that perfectly encapsulated the title of “Big Game Jermaine” and his career as a whole. Even when things were at an all-time low for Kearse, he’d bounce back in some of the biggest, most impactful ways. He embodied everything about Seattle’s competitive nature and it was clear why his coaches and teammates were so fond of him.
It is impossible to tell the history of the Seahawks without Kearse’s name coming up multiple times. And for that reason, he’s just as important to the organization’s lore as any other player.