Kearse chosen as SEC Football Legend for Florida

Florida linebacker Jevon Kearse during the Florida vs. Tennessee game at Florida Field.

Special to

Former UF standout Jevon Kearse has been selected to the 2019 SEC Football Legends class, the Southeastern Conference announced Thursday.

The 2019 Football Legends Class includes 14 former stars who excelled on the gridiron and helped write the rich history of the sport at their respective institutions.  This year’s class includes All-Americans, All-SEC selections and Academic All-Americans as well as successful head coaches.  The group represents teams that won National and SEC Championships, participated in Super Bowl titles and are represented in state, school and college football halls of fame.

Kearse, also known as “The Freak,” came to Florida as a free safety, but became a legend as an outside linebacker.

In his debut game against Southwest Louisiana in 1996, he accounted for six solo tackles and a sack. The Gators would go on to win the program’s first national title, defeating Florida State Seminoles 52–20 in the 1997 Sugar Bowl, and Kearse was named to the All-SEC Freshman team.

Kearse made the All-SEC team in 1997 by registering a team-high 6.5 sacks, 38 tackles and two forced fumbles. In what would be his final season as a Gator in 1998, he led the team with 7.5 sacks and also improved his tackles tally to 54. Kearse was named the AP SEC Defensive Player of the Year and garnered All-SEC honors once again. In addition, he earned First Team All-America accolades and was a finalist for the Butkus and Chuck Bednarik Awards.

Kearse declared for the NFL Draft following his junior season and was chosen in the first round by the Tennessee Titans. Kearse was the 1999 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and a first-team All-Pro selection. Kearse made three Pro Bowl appearances in his 11-year career with the Titans and Philadelphia Eagles.

During his college career, Kearse made 34.5 tackles for a loss, finishing eleventh on the Gators’ all-time list. He also compiled 145 total tackles, 16.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, one interception, one recovered fumble, and 19 pass deflections.

The class will be honored at the 2019 SEC Football “Weekend of Champions” December 6-7 in Atlanta, Ga, highlighted by the annual SEC Legends Dinner on Friday, December 6 at the Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.  The group will also be recognized prior to the SEC Football Championship Game, which will be held at the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, December 7.

The full 2018 SEC Football Legends class is as follows:

  • ALABAMA – Ray Perkins, Wide Receiver, 1964-66/Head Coach, 1983-86
  • ARKANSAS – Dennis Winston, Linebacker, 1973-76
  • AUBURN – Karlos Dansby, Linebacker, 2000-2003
  • FLORIDA – Jevon Kearse, Outside Linebacker, 1996-98
  • GEORGIA – Vince Dooley, Head Coach, 1964-88
  • KENTUCKY – Oliver Barnett, Defensive Tackle, 1986-89
  • LSU – Johnny Robinson, Halfback, 1957-59
  • OLE MISS – Jonathan Nichols, Kicker, 2001-04
  • MISSISSIPPI STATE – Barrin Simpson, Linebacker, 1996-99
  • MISSOURI – Jeremy Maclin, Wide Receiver, 2007-08
  • SOUTH CAROLINA – Fred Zeigler, Flanker, 1967-69
  • TENNESSEE – Darwin Walker, Defensive Line, 1997-99
  • TEXAS A&M – Ed Simonini, Linebacker, 1972-75
  • VANDERBILT – Jovan Pierre Haye, Defensive End, 2002-04