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Jevon Kearse
No. --     Free Agent
Defensive end
Personal information
Date of birth: September 3, 1976 (1976-09-03) (age 33)
Place of birth: Fort Myers, Florida
Height: 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) Weight: 265 lb (120 kg)
Career information
College: Florida
NFL Draft: 1999 / Round: 1 / Pick: 16
Debuted in 1999 for the Tennessee Titans
Career history
 As player:
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of Week 17, 2009
Tackles     245
Sacks     74.0
Interceptions     1
Stats at NFL.com

Jevon Kearse (born September 3, 1976, in Fort Myers, Florida), nicknamed "The Freak," is an American football defensive end who is currently a free agent. He was originally drafted by the Titans 16th overall in the 1999 NFL Draft out of the University of Florida.

Kearse played for the Philadelphia Eagles for four seasons between stints with the Titans. During his first tenure with the Titans, Kearse was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1999. Both his unusual speed and 86-inch (220 cm) wingspan greatly impressed coaches and earned him the nickname "The Freak".[1]

Contents

Early years

Kearse was born to Joseph and Lessie Mae Kearse.

Kearse became serious about football in his high school years. He was over six feet tall and extremely agile. He began to gain muscle but did not lose his speed and agility. Kearse began attracting college recruiters under his coach Wade Hummel. He played strong safety and tight end, and in his first season in high school football, he returned four kicks for touchdowns.

In 1994, Kearse's senior year, he was honored as an All-American by USA Today. In addition to his athletic ability, colleges were interested in his 3.6 GPA and membership in the National Honor Society.

College career

Kearse (starting his college career at 6-4, 215 lb.) was projected as either a linebacker or defensive back. He thought seriously about University of Notre Dame but instead attended the University of Florida.[2] He began his career at safety before shifting to outside linebacker in 1996.

Kearse was red-shirted for the 1995 season, which gave him the opportunity to experience college life without the pressure of being a full time football player. He watched the Gators' run for the NCAA title from the sidelines, before they lost to Nebraska. In September 1995, Kearse was arrested on charges of stealing a car, but the charges were dropped after investigators determined that they had the wrong man.[3]

Coach Steve Spurrier had every intention to start the redshirt freshman, soon bestowed with his nickname, the "Freak", on SEC opponents in Florida's 1996 campaign. In his debut game against Southwest Louisiana, he accounted for six solo tackles and a sack. That year, the Florida Gators would go on to win the national title, defeating Florida State University 52-20 in the 1997 Sugar Bowl. For his on-field accomplishments Kearse would make the All-SEC Freshman team. He was unable to bask in the glory of his achievements for long, as he was forced to mourn his younger brother, Jermaine, who was slain in a drive-by-shooting after the season.

Kearse made the All-SEC team in 1997 for the first time by registering a team high 6.5 sacks during the regular season as well as 38 tackles and 2 forced fumbles. In his 1998 campaign, he once again led the team with 7.5 sacks and also improved his tackles tally to 54. Was named All-SEC again and earned the AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year that season, as well as making the list of several different All-American teams, and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, Lombardi Award, and Chuck Bednarik college defensive player of the year award.

He opted to forgo his final season of eligibility, stating, "I think I've accomplished the four goals I wanted to when I attended the University of Florida: To become a better person, to win a national championship, to get an education and finally to have a chance to play in the NFL." [4]

For his career Kearse racked up 34.5 tackles for loss, ranking 11th on UF's all-time list. Finished his career with 145 total tackles, 16.5 sacks, 6 forced fumbles, 1 interception, 1 recovered fumble, and 19 pass deflections.

Professional career

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Pre-draft

Kearse, at 262 pounds, ran a 4.58[5] second 40-yard dash, 4.24 second 20-yard shuttle and had a vertical jump of 37 inches at the 1999 NFL Combine.[6] Kearse lowered his 40-yard time to 4.43 at the University of Florida "pro day" in the spring of 1999.[7]

First stint with Titans

Jevon Kearse was drafted by the Tennessee Titans as the 16th pick of the first round. On July 28, 1999, he signed a five-year, $6.1 million contract; however, according to NFLPA records he earned incentives that increased Kearse's compensation in his first five years to nearly $9 million.

In Kearse's debut game with the Titans, he helped them achieve a 36-35 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. Steve McNair had been injured, and with backup quarterback Neil O'Donnell in his place, Kearse helped lead the Titans to win the next four out of five games. In the first month of his NFL career, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month.

For all but one month of the season, he was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month, and ended up becoming NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year with the help of his rookie record-breaking performance with 14.5 sacks (which led the AFC) that year and forced 8 fumbles, which also led the NFL. He also recorded 57 tackles and he batted away 9 passes while also making 7 of his tackles for losses. Accounted for 2 sacks (QB Rob Johnson) and 2 forced fumbles in the AFC Wild Card game vs. Buf. (1/8/00). Also credited with a safety in that game known as the Music City Miracle. Kearse was also second in the balloting for the AP Defensive Player of the Year, losing out to Warren Sapp. Kearse was a consensus All-Pro and was the first rookie defensive end in AFC history and the first rookie DE in the NFL since Detroit's Al "Bubba" Baker in 1978 to be named a Pro Bowl starter.

The next season, Kearse accounted for fewer sacks (11.5) but stated that he was playing better than his rookie season. The Titans lost their Divisional playoff games to the Baltimore Ravens who ended up winning the Super Bowl that season. Kearse also lost the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award to Ray Lewis of the Baltimore Ravens. In addition, Kearse totaled 53 tackles (6 for losses), forced 4 fumbles, had 6 pass deflections, and was again voted to the Pro Bowl.

In 2001 Kearse moved from left defensive end to right defensive end as the Titans traded for Kevin Carter. Kearse responded well and recorded 10 sacks, forced 3 fumbles, batted 2 passes while recording 36 tackles. Kearse was voted to his third consecutive Pro Bowl with the Titans in 2001. In 2002, Kearse fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on the second play from scrimmage against the Eagles in the season opener (9/8) and was inactive for the next 12 games. Due to the injury Kearse recorded only 2 sacks, playing in only four games (starting one).

The following season (2003) the Titans returned to the AFC championship game and Kearse recorded 9.5 sacks through the first nine games but was shut out the final seven games (he missed two due to a sprained ankle injury).

Philadelphia Eagles

After his 2003 campaign, Kearse was unable to reach an agreement with the Titans after his contract expired, and thus became an unrestricted free agent. The Philadelphia Eagles signed Kearse to a record-breaking deal for a defensive lineman at the time; in all, the eight-year contract would pay Kearse $65 million, with a $16 million signing bonus.

Kearse played well with the Eagles in 2004, but his tackle and sack totals were not as high as he had previously achieved in his career with the Titans. He was, however, still a defensive force, and figured into the game plans of opposing offenses. During 2004, Philadelphia finished the season with a 13-3 record and earned home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. After eliminating the Minnesota Vikings and the Atlanta Falcons, the Eagle lost Super Bowl XXXIX 24-21 to the New England Patriots.

In 2005, Kearse had a solid year similar to the year before, yet his team fell to a 6-10 record. During the season, starters like Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook, Hank Fraley, Tra Thomas, Lito Sheppard, and others were out with injuries, and star wide receiver Terrell Owens was banished from the team nine games into the season. Kearse recorded 7.5 sacks for the second season in a row (also leading the Eagles in sacks for the second straight season), but in 2005 he batted down 8 passes and forced 3 fumbles.

2006 would be a short season for Kearse who recorded 3.5 sacks in the first two games of the season before a severe knee injury. It was feared that he tore several ligaments in his knee, as well as dislocating his kneecap, tearing his knee capsule, straining his quadriceps tendon, and injuring his hamstring, during an overtime game against the New York Giants in week 2 of the NFL season. When he went into surgery, however, doctors were surprised to see that almost everything in his knee was intact, except for a tear to the lateral meniscus cartilage and a fracture to his tibia. The injury was downgraded from possibly career-ending to just a 12-week recovery.

In June, 2007, Kearse appeared to weigh around 230 lbs, almost 30 pounds lighter than his normal playing weight. Kearse attributes the weight loss from extensive cardio-vascular exercise as part of his rehab. This brought concern from defensive coordinator Jim Johnson and according to sports reporter Garry Cobb, teammates have claimed that Kearse is "partying like a rock star" in Florida and "is living like he's not playing football anymore”. By the time the season started, however, Kearse was said to have bulked up back to his normal playing weight (which is still considered quite light by NFL standards).

However, Kearse did not appear to have regained his burst on the line and, in light of substandard production, he lost his starting job to longtime teammate Juqua Thomas in Week 11 of the 2007 NFL season. Due to this lack of production, along with the expensive contract Kearse carries, many predicted that he would be cut by the start of the 2008 season.[8] This speculation turned out to be well-founded; he was released by the team on February 28, 2008, voiding the final three years of his contract. In his four years with Philadelphia Kearse earned nearly $29.2 million of his record-setting 2004 contract.

Second stint with Titans

On March 6, 2008, Kearse returned to the Titans by signing with the team as a free agent. Kearse signed a two-year, $6 million deal, with a $1.3 million signing bonus. He’ll earn a total of $3 million in the first year. Kearse started all 16 games in 2008, finishing with 3.5 sacks. During the 2009 season, Jeff Fisher decided to bench Kearse for William Hayes because lack of effort.

Personal

  • One of his cousins, Phillip Buchanon, currently plays cornerback for the Detroit Lions, and a second cousin, Desmond Kearse, is a top 2010 commit for the University of Maryland.
  • The Jevon Kearse Foundation (JevonKearseFoundation.com) exists to promote positive outreach services to at-risk youth in Southwest Florida. Located in Fort Myers, they provide many services to the surrounding community such as Drug Prevention Programs, Youth Sports Programs, and Educational Opportunities. Annually hosts The Jevon Kearse Celebrity All-Pro Weekend to benefit the foundation.
  • As Hurricane Charley trampled through South Florida in 2004, The Jevon Kearse Foundation helped distribute non-perishable food and personal hygiene items to almost 400 families in relief of the disaster that struck the Ft. Myers, FL, region.
  • Prior to every game, Kearse can be found saying a prayer for his younger brother, Rocky, who died before Jevon made it to the NFL. He paid homage to his younger sibling by tattooing his name inside of a cross on his left shoulder.
  • Has worked with several global companies in various national advertising campaigns including: DirecTV, Sega, Reebok, Pepsi, Gillette and most recently Campbell Soup.
  • Kearse made a cameo in rapper Plies video "Shawty" featuring T-Pain.
  • Kearse has been a resident of Moorestown Township, New Jersey, and put up his home there up for sale in June 2008 for $2.7 million.[9]
  • Along with punter Craig Hentrich, only one of two Titans who were members of the 1999 AFC Champion Tennessee Titans that lost Super Bowl XXXIV to the St. Louis Rams.

References

External links

Preceded by
Charles Woodson
Defensive Rookie of the Year
1999
Succeeded by
Brian Urlacher

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