Cortez Kennedy, a former University of Miami and Seattle Seahawks star defensive tackle, was found dead in Orlando Tuesday. He was 48.
"There is nothing suspicious to report, but we are conducting an investigation regarding his unattended passing," an Orlando Police Department spokeswoman said.
The Arkansas native known as Tez was part of the 1989 Miami national title team and earned All-America honors the same season. The junior college transfer only spent two seasons with the Hurricanes, but he made a significant impact and was inducted into the University of Miami Sports Hall of Fame in 2004.
Kennedy was as an imposing lineman with freakish athletic ability despite tipping the scales at 300 pounds. He also was eager to make his teammates laugh and welcomed everyone from equipment managers to veteran teammates to his Seattle area home once he made it to the NFL.
Current UM coach and former Hurricanes quarterback Mark Richt posted on Twitter Tuesday, "So sorry to hear about my fellow football alum Cortez Kennedy. My prayers to his family. U Family!"
Former Miami coach Jimmy Johnson added on his Twitter account, "Shocked at Cortez Kennedy passing..1 of the most talented players I ever recruited or coached...a fun loving person a sad day."
The tributes continued online mourning the loss of an elite defensive playmaker who made many friends throughout the NFL.
Seattle selected Kennedy with the third overall pick in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft. He made eight Pro Bowl appearances and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992 despite playing for 2-14.
"That was a tough year," Kennedy said of the two-win 1992 season during his 2012 Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech, according to Seahawks.com. "I felt so bad for Coach [Tom] Flores being the head coach, because we had zero offense. [Our] defense was top 10 in the country. That's bad when you go to the game and the defensive coordinator says, guys, 'we're not going to win the game. Let's don't embarrass ourselves.' You know we're in for a long year then."
Kennedy wrapped his NFL career with 668 tackles, 58 sacks and three interceptions. The Seahawks retired his No. 96 jersey and inducted him into the team's ring of honor.
Kennedy formally announced his retirement in 2002. He sat out the 2001 season and declined to play for other teams, saying he wanted to stick with Seattle. When he couldn't reach an agreement to keep playing for the Seahawks, he opted to end his playing career.
After retirement, Kennedy worked as an adviser for the New Orleans Saints. Mickey Loomis, the team's general manager, previously worked for the Seahawks. Nola.com reported Kennedy primarily had a behind-the-scenes role and was affiliated with the Saints during their 2009 Super Bowl run.
In a separate interview with Nola.com before Kennedy was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Loomis offered effusive praise of Kennedy.
"I can talk all day long about Cortez Kennedy," Loomis told the website. "He was just a remarkable, remarkable player. It's kind of a shame in the one sense that he's up there with the Seahawks and kind of hidden from the rest of the country because this guy was the Defensive Player of the Year on a team that was 2-14. He had a ton of sacks that year, 30-plus tackles for a loss, just unbelievable, incredible numbers. And his production every year was at a really high level. He got double-teamed for most his career and yet still found a way to make impact plays week in, week out.
"And then on top of all that he's just one of the best guys you'll ever want to meet. Really in my mind it's a shame he wasn't first ballot player because his talent is first-level talent. He just didn't happen to play in a big market or on a team that was going to and winning Super Bowls. It's unfortunate. And yet I don't ever recall him complaining about anything ever the entire time he played for us. He just came to work every day, put in a full day's work, and then on game day was just phenomenal.
"I think if you talk to any of his peer group, the players who played against him, [they'd say he's] one of the best they ever played against."