Easley was the first-round draft pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1981, and was the fourth player chosen overall. Blessed with great speed and a 32-inch vertical jump, the Chicago Bulls drafted him in the tenth round of the 1981 NBA Draft as well.
Seattle started him immediately, and the move paid off handsomely. He started all 14 games he played, intercepting three passes for a career high 155 yards. One was returned for a career long 82 yard touchdown. He also recovered a career high four fumbles. United Press International named him AFC Defensive Rookie of the Year.
The 1982 season in the NFL is most remembered for being shortened due to a players' strike. It is also the first season Easley was named to the Pro Bowl, the second Seahawk to ever be named to a Pro Bowl in team history, after he had four interceptions and the first two sacks of his career. He would be named to the Pro Bowl for the next three seasons as well.
Not only was he awarded Pro Bowl honors over these three years, he was also named First Team All-Pro in each year. No other Seahawk defensive back has done this, and it ranks as the second-most in franchise history still today. His four consecutive Pro Bowls was also a team record at the time.
The 1983 season saw Seattle hire Chuck Knox as their head coach. Easley intercepted the ball seven times and had a career-best three sacks that season as the Seahawks made the playoffs for the first time ever.
The Seahawks won their first ever playoff game by walloping the Denver Broncos 31-7. Easley contributed a sack and helped stifle the Broncos all game. Seattle rode that momentum by reaching the AFC Championship before losing.
Easly had the best season of his career in 1984. He has a career high ten interceptions and two touchdowns, both of which led the NFL. Seattle also asked him to return punts that year, and he had a career high 18 returns for 194 yards. He was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
The Seahawks won 12 games that year. It was the highest win total for them until their 2005 team won 13 and reached the Super Bowl. They got revenge on the Raiders in the first round of the playoffs by winning 13-7. Easley provided a key interception that was returned 26 yards to help the team. Seattle would lose the next week to the Dolphins.
He missed three games the next year, yet had two interceptions and two sacks. Though he missed six games in 1986 because of an ankle injury, he still managed two interceptions and a sack. However, the ankle injury would come back to haunt him later on in his career.
He returned to the Pro Bowl in 1987 after getting four interceptions. The ankle was still bothering him, and he missed four games. He was also held out of the starting lineup for a game for the first time since his first game in college. Seattle made the playoffs,but lost. It was the last game he ever played.
Seattle then traded him to the Phoenix Cardinals for the rights to quarterback Kelly Stouffer. Stouffer had been the sixth player overall drafted the season before, but sat out the entire season because he and the Cardinals were unable to agree to terms of a contact.
When Easley arrived for his physical in Phoenix, the Cardinals doctors found that he had a kidney disease. It was later determined his disease stemmed from taking too many Advils when he was attempting to play on his injured ankle, which was what the Seahawks' medical staff had been advising him to do over that time.
Easley was forced to retire as a player. He later settled with the team out of court over the Advil fiasco that robbed him of his kidney and playing career. He would undergo a successful kidney transplant in 1990. He was jogging within four months of the surgery, then won a golf tournament within six months.
His 32 interceptions are the fourth-most in team history, and his 538 yards returned off interceptions is the third-most. The three touchdowns he scored off of interceptions is the second-most, and his 11 fumble recoveries is the fifth-most by any Seahawks' defender. No other defensive back in Seahawks' history has gone to the Pro Bowl more than him, and only three other players in team history have more appearances.
Kenny Easley is a member of the Seahawks Ring of Honor, and is a member of the NFL 1980's All-Decade First Team. He is the only member of the unit to yet be inducted into Canton.
Easley is the not only the best strong safety of the 1980s, but he is the best safety in that decade and in Seahawks' history.
Robert Blackmon deserves mention.