As Jevon Kearse recalled record rookie year, a thanks to Jon Runyan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It took Jevon Kearse a while. But a Titans teammate who had a great deal to do with his rookie record 14.5-sack defensive rookie of the year season in 1999 that helped get Tennessee to the Super Bowl got an overdue thanks about six or seven years later.

In Philadelphia.

Rookie defensive line coach Jim Washburn did a great deal to help Kearse take the league by storm after he lasted as a tweener until the 16th pick in the draft.KearseSkype2

Tuesday on The Midday 180 The Freak said right tackle Jon Runyan also deserves credit for that big rookie year. Washburn lined Kearse up on the left side and he tried to get the past the 6-foot-7, 330-pound lineman starting in OTAs.

“(Those matchups) started out physical from Day 1 and we didn’t even have pads on,” said Kearse, who recalled one early combination block where guard Benji Olson tried to take his head off as if Kearse had done something bad to his kid or mom and wound up falling down. “Going against Jon every day, going against him in training camp that really got me developed as much as Washburn got me developed because like I said I didn’t play defensive end in college, I played it when I got to the big league.

“Jon Runyan, that’s an angry cat. I don’t know why he as so angry, but he was always walking around with that bottom lip [Unlocked]

out. I don’t think he had any love for me. Maybe because I was a rookie or because I had a big nickname. I don’t know what it was, but this guy made me bring my lunch box, the steel toe boots and a hard hat to practice every day. That pretty much got me ready to go.”

Throughout his career, Kearse often pictured the man lined up across from him in a game as the man who murdered his younger brother, Jermaine, in a drive-by shooting in 1998. Kearse said the motivational tactic frequently helped him overcome fatigue and play an effective snap in a big moment.

As for Runyan, the big tackle was gone after the Titans AFC Championship season in 1999. He left as a free agent for Philadelphia replaced by Fred Miller, a player Kearse and a raucous Adelphia Coliseum crowd made super jumpy with six false starts and two holds in a regular-season win over the Rams.  

Kearse broke the outside of his left foot in his third season, playing in just four games and he wasn’t quite the same player when he returned in 2003. He too left for a free-agent deal with the Eagles – a record-setting eight-year, $66 million deal with a $16 million signing bonus.

Washburn said it pained him to watch Philadelphia ask the defensive end to read a block rather than simply pursue the quarterback as he’d done in Nashville.

Things had happened fast in Kearse’s rookie season.

But during the preseason when they were both settled in Philadelphia, he pulled Runyan aside at a preseason dinner

apple icon 144x144 precomposed“I saw Jon there with his kid and his wife,” Kearse said. “I just thought about it and I went over to him and I said, ‘Jon, I want to thank you right now. I should have thanked you back in 99 or 2000. I want to thank you right now.' At that point it might have been 05, 06.

"'Thank you for getting me ready for this NFL. Because you didn’t take no time off, you didn’t take no days off, that made me come to work every day knowing that if I don’t bring it today that big old 69 is going to make me look like a little girl or something. I can’t have that.'"

“I probably caught him off guard too. He just tilted his head to the side and was like, ‘It was nothing man, it was nothing.’ And then he took a sip out of his beer and that was it.”

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