Motor runs high and in unique directions for Seahawks DE Kerney

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- There is so much gas in Seattle about Patrick Kerney's motor, you'd think the Seahawks' biggest free agent signing this offseason was a souped-up car.

A $39.5 million car, that is.

"His motor never stops," said Seahawks defensive backs coach Jim Mora, Kerney's head coach with the Atlanta Falcons from 2004 through last season, when he missed the last seven games because of a torn pectoral muscle.

Besides being a relentless menace to quarterbacks, the 2004 Pro Bowler is also a licensed pilot who owns a four-seat plane. He said meeting two dozen crew members of the Navy's Blue Angels performance flying team after practice Monday was "awesome."

"I asked them how far apart they fly, and they said 18 inches! When I'm in the air and I see a plane within a mile of me, I'm out of there the other way," Kerney said, adding he is no longer flying now that he's so far removed from family while out in Seattle.

Kerney spent his Monday morning repeatedly blowing past and through Tom Ashworth, a former Super Bowl starting tackle with the New England Patriots. He's 6-foot-5, 272 pounds, with biceps as wide and hard as cinder blocks. He has a billboard-sized chest recently reinforced by successful rehabilitation following surgery to repair the torn muscle last November.

He is also a history major from the University of Virginia who attended The Taft School, a prestigious boarding school on an idyllic campus spread across 220 acres in Watertown, Conn.

"He's breaking a lot of stereotypes," Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck said of Kerney.

Hasselbeck had classmates from Boston College who shared Kerney's silver-spoon roots from Taft.

"He went to a preppy boarding school up in New England," Hasselbeck said. "If I had known that when he was in Atlanta, I probably would've been a little less intimidated by him."

Kerney, 29, comes across as a mild-mannered, soft-spoken bachelor with a large, bright grin. But he grew up in Eastern Pennsylvania as a huge fan of the "Broad Street Bullies," the brawling Philadelphia Flyers of the early 1980s.

But this connoisseur of collisions also contributes thousands of dollars each year to send to college children of police officers whose fathers have died in the line of duty.

"It's just the fiber of who he is. He attacks life," Mora said. "If you get to know Pat, and you see how he does things, it's always full-go.

"When he bought a house here, five minutes after he closed, he was remodeling. His motor never stops."

Kerney and other Falcons were at Mora's press conference when Atlanta hired Mora as its coach. Unlike his teammates, who sat quietly and simply exchanged pleasantries with the new leader, Kerney jumped him.

"He was like, 'OK. Let's go. What are we going to do. What's our plan?'," Mora said. "Immediately. Five minutes into my tenure, and he wanted to know. Pat was in my face. That's just the way he is."

Soon after Kearney entered the NFL as the 30th overall selection in the 1999 draft, he established the Lt. Thomas L. Kerney Endowment Fund. Thomas Kerney was Patrick's older brother, an Army veteran and police officer in Leesville, S.C., who died in the line of duty.

"It was just before my 12th birthday," Kerney said. "He was leading firefighters to a fire and slipped on a patch of ice. Shot off the road, into a tree.

"Yeah, it was tough," he said. "Very tough thing for myself, for my family. But we have a very strong faith. We know that he is heaven, looking down on everything that we do."

Patrick honors his big brother by pointing to the sky at the conclusion of the national anthem before each game. For each sack, Kerney puts $2,000 into the grass roots fund. For his career-best season of 2004, he contributed $26,000. He also solicits family and friends to contribute what they can for each quarterback dumping. They are his "Sack Pack."

The money has sent a half dozen children to college. It also helps pay for the everyday lives of dozens more spouses whose police officer mates have died, leaving young children behind.

"I've used his presence to propel me, inspire me," Kerney said of his brother. "I think most NFL players realize how circumstantial our success is, that we owe so much more to our success than just ourselves. So I want to do something to give back that has been meaningful to me and my family."

Kerney is bringing the foundation to Seattle, where he hopes to team with fellow defensive end Bryce Fisher. Fisher's father retired after 25 years with the Washington State Patrol.

Fisher is looking forward to having Kerney as his rush partner. Seattle's defense led the league in sacks during its Super Bowl season of 2005, but dipped to eighth last season.

Fisher and Grant Wistrom, the man Kerney is replacing, combined for just eight sacks. Kerney has averaged at least nine over the last five seasons, including last fall when he played only nine games.

"I've partnered with Leonard Little, who was a pure speed rusher," Fisher said. "Grant was more of a power guy.

"Pat can do both."

On top of everything else.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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