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From the time his career ended because of a kidney ailment in 1987 to when the Seattle Seahawks inducted Easley into their Ring of Honor in 2002, he wanted nothing to do with the NFL.
“I had every right to be angry,” Easley said. “And I decided at that point that if I never talked to the Seahawks or to anybody in the Seahawks organization, it’d be fine with me. And it was 15 years. I didn’t watch a football game or Seahawks game or basically any kind of football.”
The football world got robbed of seeing Easley’s career last longer, but fans and peers alike witnessed greatness when they saw him play.
“I loved football and loved everything about football — practice, training, meetings, film study, I loved it all,” Easley said. “And for the most part, football loved me back.”
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For Davis, that moment likely came Aug. 6, 1995. In a preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers played in Tokyo, Davis grabbed the Broncos by their proverbial lapels at about 11 a.m. Denver time.
In the third quarter, Davis roared down the field on kickoff coverage and blasted 49ers kick returner Tyronne Drakeford. Davis plowed into Drakeford at the 20-yard line, lifted him off his feet, and launched him 3 yards backward, landing on top of him to end the play.
It was a sliver of a moment from a preseason game that was filed away, but if every journey begins with a first step, that was Davis’. Mike Shanahan, the coach who eventually told his quarterbacks to hand the ball to Davis 1,655 times over the next seven seasons, said that play made him notice Davis.
“I really thought that there’s no way they’re going to put two backs in the same class, especially a guy that was a first-ballot Hall of Famer versus a special circumstance guy like me,” Davis said. “I thought that’s what they saw me as. When I got the knock, obviously I was shocked.”
On the other end of the spectrum was Andersen, the kicker who lasted 25 seasons, played in 382 games and scored 2,544 points for five teams. He is the all-time leading scorer for both the Saints and Falcons and was among the first to make the 50-plus-yard field goal routine. His 40 kicks of 50-plus yards were the most in NFL history at his retirement.
Andersen is the second player to make the Hall of Fame strictly as a kicker, joining Jan Stenerud.