Tennessee Titans Thursday Throwback: “The Freak”by Joe Heller May 13, 2021 0 comments
The Tennessee Titans, in their franchise’s six-plus decades of history, have seen many stars and elite talents pass through their locker room, but there’s only ever been, and will ever be only one Freak.
Defensive end Jevon Kearse was the sixteenth overall pick out of the University of Florida in the 1999 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans. Kearse the 6’4″ 265 lb. man who recorded a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, impressive for his size, looked every bit the part of his nickname, “The Freak”. His 7’3″ wingspan made him a nightmare for opposing offensive tackles.
His impact on the Titans and their defensive unit was immediate. The first-round pick recorded 14.5 sacks in his rookie season and took home the 1999 Defensive Rookie of the Year honors. Kearse’s ability to chase down quarterbacks and ball carriers with his speed and his length was rare and on display early and often in his career. In addition to his physical prowess, the Titans also made life exceptionally difficult for opposing offenses moving Kearse between left and right end throughout games, more often than not snap to snap.
Kearse was arguably the most pulverizing figure in the early history of the Titans after their move to Tennessee. He was a key factor for the AFC Championship-winning Titans team that lost in Super Bowl XXXIV to the Greatest Show on Turf Rams team. He also recorded 74 career sacks and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, spending seven seasons with the Titans, including his first five and his final two, and four with the Philadelphia Eagles.
What still stands out about Kearse years after his retirement, was his amazing first step off the snap of the ball. It was explosive enough that most offensive tackles were dead in the water right from the get-go. And if they were able to get the slightest of leverage advantages in blocking him, The Freak’s spin and swim moves were second to none.
Even after more than a decade since he donned an NFL uniform, offensive tackles likely still have nightmares about his number 90 jersey punishing them, blowing by them, and then dishing out more punishment to whoever had the ball. Because when Kearse was on the field, they weren’t bad dreams they were real:
Had Kearse been able to spend a few more seasons in the NFL, either with the Titans or elsewhere, and remained productive as he was throughout his 11-year career, he would undoubtedly be a lock for the Hall of Fame. Regardless of that, he’s one of the best defensive ends in franchise history. And regardless of his absence from Canton, while good players come and go, the great ones leave their mark on the league, on the opponents they faced, and on a franchise. Without question, The Freak did just that.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images