The NFL world was rocked yesterday with the passing of future Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau which is being reported as a suicide. Even if you are not a Chargers, Dolphins or Patriots fans, the three teams Seau played for in his 19 seasons in the NFL, the news of his passing was still a big shock for all fans. Seau was 43-years old.
Throughout my life I have been a die-hard 49ers fans. After spending the first 21-years of my life in Orange County, I moved to San Diego to attend San Diego State University in 2003. That year the Charges finished with a 4-12 record and for the first time in my life I experienced what it was like to live in a football town. Even though the Chargers did not have a winning record for the eighth straight season that year, the city of San Diego still loudly cheered for their team packing the stadium and bars each Sunday. After the 2003 season I was quickly converted into a Chargers fan, which I still am to this day but the 49ers are always first, because of the excitement I experienced with the fans. The following season the Chargers had their first winning season since 1996 and won their first AFC West title since 1994 with a 12-4 record. In the playoffs that season the Chargers were upset by the Jets 20-17 in the Wild Card Round. I can still clearly remember Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding missing a 40-yard field goal in overtime that would have won the game and sent them to the next round of the playoffs. After the missed field goal, the hush of the crowd at the bar I was watching the game was very similar to the one I experienced in San Francisco after the Kyle Williams’ second fumble in the NFC Championship. After experiencing that heartbreak in the playoffs, I knew I would be a fan of the Chargers for the rest of my life.
The year I moved to San Diego was Seau’s first season not in a Chargers uniform. Even though Seau was playing in Miami, his work in and for the San Diego community did not stop. The love the city of San Diego and Chargers fans had for No. 55 was immense and amazing. When I heard the news on Wednesday, I thought of all of my friends back in San Diego and how it would affect the fans, city and Chargers organization for a long time to come.
49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh was teammates with Seau when the two were on the Chargers roster from 1999-2000. Harbaugh’s connection to San Diego and Seau was not only that they were teammates, but also with Harbaugh’s first job as a head coach was at the University of San Diego. Harbaugh and anyone else who lives or lived in San Diego will tell you, Seau was a huge and important part of the community even in his years away from San Diego. Tragedies are always hard to struggle with, especially when it involves someone taking their own life. RIP Junior Seau.
Here is a statement from Harbaugh regarding Seau’s passing
I, along with the entire NFL family, the San Diego community and those who shared a life with Junior, grieve the loss of the ultimate teammate and friend. I am saddened that I was not there for Junior as he had always been for his teammates and friends.
The qualities I most respected in Junior were the caring and respect he showed to all those with whom he came in contact. One of my fondest remembrances as a professional football player was looking across the locker room after playing my last career game with the Chargers and knowing that I had shared that moment with one of the greatest teammates and competitors the game has ever known. The moment moved me to get off my stool, approach Junior and ask him to trade jerseys. It’s the only time I had done that in my career.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Junior’s family.