Cortez Kennedy passes at age 48

Born in Osceloa and raised in Wilson; graduated from Rivercrest H S.

Never could figure out how he got out of state to Miami, but he did. NFL Hall of Famer. … hurricanes

If I’m not mistaken, he wasn’t that highly recruited out of JC.

He went to Junior College in Mississippi after High School. He was very good in High School but not great. He didn’t have the grades. Someone got to him after he got to college and made him understand how good he could be. He weighed about 275 in High School but could run like a deer. Rivercrest went undefeated and won the 3A championship his Sr year. He was always a good person and friendly to anyone he met. He was always humble and kind.

I met him on a recruiting trip back in the day.
Fantastic guy with a great sense of humor.
I was shocked to hear of his passing.

I had the chance to talk with him a few times and he was so very kind. I have friends who were close with him and they loved him and think he was a great guy.

From Sunday, August 29, 2010 column. Thought you might like to see Horton’s Cortez story.

Oh, Harold Horton can spin a recruiting yarn

Few know the vagaries of recruiting more than longtime Arkansas assistant football coach and administrator Harold Horton.

Horton, who serves as the executive director of the Razorback Foundation, was an assistant coach at Arkansas under Frank Broyles and Lou Holtz from 1968-1980 and the head coach at Central Arkansas from 1982-1989.

Horton was responsible for signing linebacker Dennis Winston as a member of Broyles’ staff, but there was nothing orthodox about the process of evaluating Winston, who lettered at Arkansas from 1973-1976 before playing nine seasons in the NFL.

“We never saw Dennis Winston play a game of football,” Horton said of Winston, who earned a spot on Arkansas’ All-Century team. “Marianna did not have football his senior year and we didn’t see him play his junior year. We justified our decision on seeing him playing a game of basketball with the athlete he was and the physical specimen he was.”

Horton signed Winston and traveled to Forrest City to spend the night. That’s where Horton bumped into Oklahoma assistant coach Larry Lacewell, who just signed Mustangs running back Robert Lee Stewart.

“He was probably the most highly recruited running back in the state,” said Horton, the father of current Arkansas recruiting coordinator Tim Horton. “I’ll never forget Lacewell saying, ‘Well, I got Stewart, I’ll let you have Winston.’ Stewart never played a snap at OU.”

Recruiting assessments are not foolproof, even when delivered by Jimmy Johnson, who won a national championship with the Miami Hurricanes and two Super Bowl titles with the Dallas Cowboys.

Johnson, Arkansas’ defensive coordinator from 1973-1976, didn’t think Jacksonville’s Dan Hampton would be much help on defense.

“I’ll never forget when Dan Hampton walked in with his host and went to Jimmy Johnson’s house,” said Horton of Hampton, who was 6-5, 215 pounds at the time. “When Dan Hampton walked into the den, we were sitting around shooting pool. I’ll never forget Jimmy making the statement, ‘He’ll be a great offensive lineman.’ He never saw the offensive line.”

Hampton was the fourth player selected in the 1979 NFL Draft and went on to have a Pro Football Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bears. Hampton was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2002.

Horton made his share of miscalculations, including one when he was head coach at UCA.

Horton recalled a chance to sign an unknown defensive lineman from eastern Arkansas who made a visit to the Conway campus.

Horton and Bears assistant coach Ronnie Kerr debated whether to offer a partial or full scholarship to the young man before eventually deciding to pass.

“I asked him [Kerr] if anyone else in our league was recruiting him,” said Horton, who had a 74-12-5 record with two national championships at UCA. “He said, ‘No, no one else is recruiting him.’ I said if no one else is recruiting him that means we won’t have to play against him.”

The name of the prospect was Cortez Kennedy, a defensive tackle from Rivercrest. Kennedy later enrolled at Northwest Mississippi Community College before going on to play at Miami where he earned All-America honors. Kennedy, taken by Seattle with the No. 3 pick of the draft, turned into an eight-time Pro Bowl selection and was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.

Then, there was a conversation Horton recalled having with former Razorbacks assistant coach Wilson Matthews.

Matthews told Horton about a film session Matthews had with Hogs assistant Jim Mackenzie in the mid-1960s. Matthews wanted Mackenzie to give his evaluation of a smallish-looking linebacker.

“Coach Matthews said ‘Jim, you think he can help us?’ ” Horton said. “And Coach Mackenzie said, ‘We can’t take that guy. He’s too little to play in the Southwest Conference.’ Wilson said, ‘Jim, you notice the plays he’s making?’ ”

“McKenzie said, ‘We just can’t take him. He’s not big enough to play in the Southwest Conference.’ Coach Matthews said, ‘Well, that kid has already finished his eligibility here at Arkansas. Jim, you just turned down the best damn linebacker that this university has ever had. That’s Wayne Harris.’ ”

Horton recalls the evaluation of Larry Jackson, the late linebacker from Hot Springs. Horton watched film of Jackson with defensive assistants Bill Lewis and Frank Falks.

“About the middle of the third quarter, Bill Lewis turned the projector off and turned on the lights on,” Horton said, recalling how Lewis noted that he had already turned down four or five players better than Jackson. “ ‘This guy can’t help us as a freshman and he can’t ever play for us.’ Well, he made All-Southwest Conference two years in a row and was the ABC [Defensive] National Player of the Year in 1977. A lot of times, what you see isn’t what you always end up getting.”

Those are great stories, Richard. You often cannot measure the value of a player just by his physical attributes.

I agree. That’s why I don’t get too high or too low on a kid.

I too have friends who were close with Cortez. My daughter and family attended a Cowboys game with him a couple of years ago. She said Cortez was a gentle giant who was so nice and kind to her and the family. Very sad to hear of his passing.