He connected with his half-brother, whom he met only recently for the first time. It was the culmination of a search that took nearly a year.
Kearse spent the day in Hoboken, New Jersey, catching up over lunch with David Ashley, 34, who lives in Manhattan and works as a hair-styling instructor. They have the same father, but Kearse didn’t know about Ashley until after their father died. That was 11 years ago, when Kearse was 17.
“It was definitely different,” Kearse told ESPN, recalling Sunday’s meeting. “I mean, it’s a stranger who’s your brother. But he’s been real cool. [Sunday] was real nice. We talked a little bit, and I heard how he grew up.”
Kearse, 28, said his parents hadn’t met when Ashley was born. He learned of David’s existence while in high school in the Seattle area, although the details were scarce.
“I knew of him and I knew his name, but that was it,” Kearse said. “Last I heard, he lived in California. But that was it.”
As his football career flourished — University of Washington, the Seattle Seahawks and the Jets — Kearse remained curious about his mystery brother. His curiosity piqued at the end of last season, when he brought up David in a conversation with his paternal grandmother. He was looking for any shred of information. She knew the name of Ashley’s mother, so he took that clue and researched her on the internet.
“Did a little more digging and found him,” Kearse said proudly. “I did the research and I looked him up. It was very impulsive. I had my aunt vet it to see if it was him. It was. She met him before I met him. He met my aunt and my grandmother out in North Carolina.”
Kearse spoke to David by phone in February, and they set up a brief meeting after the Jets’ home opener, Sept. 16, a loss to the Miami Dolphins. They exchanged pleasantries, but it wasn’t an in-depth conversation. That didn’t happen until Sunday.
“He was surprised,” said Kearse, recalling his brother’s reaction the first time he contacted him. “He said he knew about me. He said he never wanted to contact me because he didn’t want to be ‘that guy.’ I guess, with me being in the NFL, he didn’t want to be that random person who comes out of nowhere and says, ‘Hey, I’m your brother.’ Which I respect.
“He’s kind of like me, a little reserved, I guess, until you get to know the person,” Kearse continued. “We’re very similar.”
This has been a tough season for Kearse, who got off to a slow start because of an abdominal injury and hasn’t been able to match his career numbers from last season. He’s on pace for 40 receptions and 385 yards, well below his 2017 stats: 65 receptions and 810 yards. He’s had a lot of company on the Jets (3-7), who are headed for their third straight losing season.
But for one Sunday — one Sunday with no football — Kearse was whole and happy. He hopes to start something special with the brother he never knew.
“That’s the goal, to continue to find ways to get together and kind of build a relationship from there,” he said. “I think it’s pretty cool.”