When asked to describe Jevon Kearse’s style of play, former teammate Albert Haynesworth went on something of a verbal safari.
“I mean, he was like a gazelle hunting down a sloth in a quarterback,” Haynesworth said in one breath. “It was just some of the most amazing things to see how fast he beat offensive tackles.”
Then he offered this: “You can’t put a 350-pound offensive tackle trying to race against a cheetah. It doesn’t work.”
Such is the task of articulating greatness.
Recognizing it, on the other hand, comes much easier. To that end, Kearse is a member of the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame Class of 2022, which formally will be inducted next month.
Haynesworth’s comments were part of a one-hour special produced by the Hall to recognize this year’s inductees and honorees. It was released last week and aired on television stations across the state throughout the weekend.
Kearse is the eighth member of the NFL franchise to get the call but the first whose time with the team was confined to the Titans era (1999-present). Tennessee selected Kearse in the first round of the 1999 draft (16th overall), the first after the team previously known as the Houston Oilers (1960-96) and Tennessee Oilers (1997-98) officially was rebranded as the Tennessee Titans.
He follows franchise founder K.S. “Bud” Adams (2006), four other players – tight end Frank Wycheck (2013), running back Eddie George (2014), quarterback Steve McNair (2016) and safety Blaine Bishop (2018) – coach Jeff Fisher (2020) and broadcaster Mike Keith (2021).
“There’s no one more deserving of this honor than Jevon,” George said in the program. “Long overdue and well-deserved, my man, my brother, my teammate.”
Nicknamed “The Freak,” Kearse was the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1999 (he was second in voting for Defensive Player of the Year) when he set a rookie record, which still stands, with 14.5 sacks and led the league with eight forced fumbles. He added three sacks, two forced fumbles and three passes defensed in the playoffs that year as the franchise reached the Super Bowl for the first – and thus far only – time.
Kearse had at least 10 sacks in each of his first three seasons, was a three-time Pro Bowler and a 1999 All-Pro.
In two stints with Tennessee (1999-03, 2008-09), he registered 52 sacks and forced 22 fumbles – both are franchise-highs during the Titans era – in 88 games. He also spent four seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“He definitely lived up to the F-R-E-A-K,” former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck, the team’s first-round pick in 2000, said. “… On the field, Jevon Kearse was straight savage. Off the field, one of the most kind-hearted, funniest guys I know.”
Added Haynesworth: “Yeah, I mean, his nickname – The Freak – it’s fitting.”
Kearse and the rest of the 2022 Hall of Fame class will formally be inducted on July 23 in Nashville.