A Bright Light, Tragic Ending for Junior Seau

San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau (55) made his presence felt on and off the football field. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers
San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau (55) made his presence felt on and off the football field. Photo courtesy of the San Diego Chargers

Many people throw the words game-changer around a lot. Future Hall of Famer and San Diego Chargers great Junior Seau brought it to life on the football field every Sunday he played in the NFL.  Game schemes couldn’t stop Seau from unleashing his football fury into opponents.  Football pundits like to use the terminology “impact plays.”

Throughout his 20-year career, which also included stints with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots besides his dominating tenure with the Chargers, Seau was often times the impact play waiting to happen. Seau made wreaking havoc for opposing offenses a mainstay for the Chargers during their Super Bowl season in 1994.

The 545 total tackles, 18 interceptions and 56 and a half sacks he accumulated throughout his productive career, doesn’t come close to measuring the true dynamics of the game-altering plays the athletic Seau would create. Seau was a bona fide star, a 12-time Pro Bowl selection that cemented his legacy as one of the all-time greats.

That greatness is now gone, forever banned from planting seeds of joy and jubilance into others as he once did-on and off the football field. Seau is permanently gone from the land of the living, a victim of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest at the age of 43. It is an act many could not see coming.

To that end, the Chargers family is now in steep mourning.

“I can’t put into words how I’m feeling right now,” said Chargers President Dean Spanos in a released statement. “I’m shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn’t just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior’s family. It’s heartbreaking.”

A product of San Diego County, Seau grew up practically in the Chargers’ backyard before becoming an All-American linebacker at USC. When he was drafted by the Chargers in 1990, Seau helped usher in a new attitude to the team. Seau’s exciting and frenetic play brought excitement from the team’s fan base and was instrumental in giving the Chargers the fortitude to rise to the level of becoming an elite team.

Former teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, like the rest of the Charger community, is at a loss for words right now.

“I don’t know what to say,” Tomlinson said. “I’m hurt. It’s hard to put to words how I feel right now. I learned how to be a pro because of him. I learned how to start a foundation and work in the community because of him. I learned how to relate to people because of him…fans…signing  autographs. I’m just hurt. He’s an icon I looked up to my entire life before I got to San Diego. Even to this day. It’s a numb feeling in my heart right now.”

The NFL fraternity has also been hit hard by the news, and now has been prematurely left to grieve one of its proudest warriors.

“I had the pleasure of playing against Junior for many years,” said former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway, now executive vice president of the team’s football operations. “He played the game the way it was meant to be played. We shared a lot of laughs from our AFC West battles when I saw Junior before he was inducted into the Chargers HOF in November. Junior was a true competitor and a special player. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Seau family.”

 

 

 

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1122 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.