CANTON, Ohio --The University of Michigan’s loss became the Pro Football Hall-of-Fame’s gain.
Kenny Easley will be enshrined in the Hall of Fame this weekend as a member of the Class of 2017, just the eighth pure safety to earn a bust in Canton. He was a blue-chip recruit who played both quarterback and free safety at Oscar F. Smith High School in Chesapeake, Va., and his college decision came down to two schools, Michigan or UCLA.
“The only school that came to my house and said we’re recruiting you as a defensive back was UCLA,” Easley said on the latest Talk of Fame Network broadcast. “Bo Schembechler came to my house, and he’s talking about me being the next Michigan quarterback, winning Big Ten championships and going to Rose Bowls.
“I finally got up the nerve to tell (Schembechler) that I didn’t want to play quarterback, I wanted to play free safety. He almost went ballistic on me. He said, `You’re telling me that you don’t want to play quarterback at the finest university in the nation? Anybody can play free safety.’ I said, `Well, coach, I want to play free safety.’ He left the house in a huff and never said another word to me after that. The next day I said I’m going to UCLA.”
Easley went on to become a three-time All-America safety at UCLA and the school’s all-time leading interceptor with 19. He finished ninth in the 1980 Heisman Trophy balloting -- one spot ahead of Michigan wide receiver Anthony Carter.
The Seattle Seahawks selected Easley with the fourth overall choice of the 1981 draft and he went on to become a five-time Pro Bowler and a member of the 1980s NFL all-decade team before a kidney disease forced him into a premature retirement after seven seasons.
Easley’s number 5 has been retired by UCLA and now he has a bust in Canton. All because he didn’t want to play quarterback at Michigan.