The football and sporting world lost a great one today. Junior Seau, former All-Pro linebacker for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, was found dead at his home by his girlfriend this afternoon with a gunshot wound to the stomach. He was only 43 years old. The police are investigating it as a suicide, but we won’t know for sure until an autopsy has taken place.
Seau was a first round, fifth overall pick of the Chargers in 1990, after two All-American seasons at USC. Seau is considered a legend at the fabled school, where he wore the number 55, a number that signifies greatness at USC. Only linebackers with NFL potential are allowed to wear 55 at USC. Seau wore it with pride and passion.
When Seau joined the Chargers, he made an immediate impact. His shattering hits and non stop motor were a welcome addition to a struggling Chargers team. He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in his second season. His third season saw Seau come into the limelight. The “Tasmanian Devil” as he was known by his teammates, was named defensive player of the year in 1992, while leading the Chargers to their first division title in 11 years. Seau terrorized offences with his speed and pure savagery. He showed no love towards running backs coming up the middle, or quarterbacks when he decided to rush the passer. He even had 2 interceptions, just to show he had some ball skills to go with his physical prowess.
He led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance in the 1994 season in which he was named the AFC player of the year, and was a finalist for the MVP of the NFL. His best game was in the AFC Championship Game against the favoured Pittsburgh Steelers. Seau registered 19 tackles and was a force all afternoon as the Chargers upset the Steelers 17-13 to advance to the Super Bowl. He was the emotional leader of the Chargers, in which teammates looked to him to shoulder the load. Seau was so instrumental to the Chargers, in which he was named to the NFL’s All Decade Team of the 1990s.
In 2003, Seau was traded to the Miami Dolphins for a conditional draft pick. While not as dominant in South Beach, Seau was still a solid player for Miami. However his aggressive, hard-hitting style started to catch up to him. Seau missed half of the 2004 season due to a torn pectoral muscle. In 2005, Seau played only 5 games, because of a rupture achilles. The Dolphins released Seau that offseason.
Seau retired in 2006 after signing a one day contract with the Chargers. His press conference was emotional, as tears flowed while making his retirement speech.
However four days later, Seau decided to come back to the NFL, as he signed with the New England Patriots. Seau was desperate to win a Super Bowl and thought New England gave him his best chance. In 2007, the Patriots had a perfect season and reached the Super Bowl. Seau’s dreams of being on a championship team, were dashed by the New York Giants, losing a heartbreaking 17-14 decision.
Seau played 2 more years, before being released by the Patriots following the 2009 season. Following retirement, Seau hosted a reality TV show, and did charitable work throughout the San Diego area.
What I remember about Seau was his sheer intensity and his will to win. I always respected Seau, for leading the Chargers out of the NFL wilderness, and into the spotlight. He was the type of player I wanted on my team. He brought every game.
I did lose some respect for Seau when he “unretired” to join the Patriots. I thought this was a cheap move by him to try to win a Super Bowl. It made him look greedy.
But today, I feel sad. This warrior on the field was obviously broken on the inside. He possessed so much strength and leadership, that perhaps the burden of post football life was too much to bear. No one has the answers. All I can hope for is that, Junior Seau can finally find peace.
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