Age: 23 (Sept. 3)
Height: 6’4” Weight: 265
Looking to upgrade their pass rush, the Titans chose Kearse in the first round (16th overall) of the 1999 NFL draft. With his exceptional speed and wide wingspan, he earned the nickname “The Freak” in college. He quickly moved into the starting lineup with Tennessee.
1999 Season Summary
Appeared in all 16 games
[Bracketed numbers indicate league rank in Top 20]
Sacks – 14.5 [4, 1st in AFC]
Most sacks, game – 3 vs. Cleveland 9/19
Multi-sack games – 3
Interceptions – 0
Fumble recoveries – 1
Forced fumbles – 8
Tackles – 48
Assists – 9
TDs – 1
Points – 6
Postseason: 4 G
Sacks – 3
Most sacks, game – 2 vs. Buffalo, AFC Wild Card playoff
Interceptions – 0
Safety – 1
TD – 0
Awards & Honors:
NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year: AP, PFWA
1st team All-NFL: AP, PFWA, Sporting News
1st team All-AFC: Pro Football Weekly
Titans went 13-3 to finish second in the AFC Central and qualified for the postseason as a Wild Card entry while ranking third in the league with 54 sacks. Won AFC Wild Card playoff over Buffalo Bills (22-16), AFC Divisional playoff over Indianapolis Colts (19-16), and AFC Championship over Jacksonville Jaguars (33-14). Lost Super Bowl to St. Louis Rams (23-16).
Following his outstanding first season in which he set a rookie record for sacks, Kearse received Pro Bowl recognition after the 2000 and 2001 seasons as well. He accumulated 11.5 and 10 sacks, respectively, while facing increased double-teaming. A foot injury suffered in the first contest of the ’02 season limited him to just four games and he missed time in 2003 with foot and ankle injuries that significantly reduced his performance during the second half of a year in which he registered 9.5 sacks. Kearse joined the Philadelphia Eagles as a free agent in 2004 and, with his versatility, was a good fit in the blitz-heavy scheme the Eagles employed. But while he stayed healthy, his play lacked consistency and his sack total was only 7.5. He underachieved in 2005, with another 7.5 sacks, and a major knee injury limited him to two games in ’06. After one more year in Philadelphia during which he lost his starting job, Kearse returned to Tennessee in 2008 for his last two seasons. In all, over the course of 11 years he accumulated 74 sacks. While a feared pass rusher with tremendous athleticism early in his career, injuries ultimately wore him down.
Rookie of the Year Profiles feature players who were named Rookie of the Year in the NFL (including NFC/AFC), AFL (1960-69), or USFL (1983-85) by a recognized organization (Associated Press – Offense or Defense, Newspaper Enterprise Association, United Press International, The Sporting News, or the league itself – Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year).