I remember walking home from an evening class. My path brought me past the gym that only the elite USC athletes used and I remember falling in step behind this huge figure with curly brown hair. As he turned a corner to head to his destination I instantly identified him and thought, “WOW, I was just walking behind Junior Seau!” He was only one year ahead of me but already his presence and reputation on the playing field made him a legend in my mind.
Returning to our shared hometown after college, his presence on the San Diego Chargers inspired my transition from Bandwagon Fan to True Fan! We ate at his restaurant Seau’s admiring the memorabilia, proud to have a Trojan family member in San Diego. We vowed to next time order Mama Seau’s Samoan slow-roasted dish that it was rumored she traditionally fed the team before games. We haven’t been back though since I don’t live there now.
I loved how much he contributed to the town bringing such a positive spin on a professional football career and showing the good that one can do with celebrity. His warm image helped re-shine the walls and trophies of Heritage Hall after OJ’s outburst had temporarily tarnished it. Even friends of mine who weren’t Trojans spoke excitedly when they’d see Seau or his family out and the words “He was so warm and friendly!” always described the encounter. I lost track of him for a when he retired then resurfaced on a pro team elsewhere.
I’m saddened to learn of his death today as a Trojan, a San Diegan, and as someone the same age feeling like life just started revving up. We don’t know for sure yet how or why it happened, but if it was self-inflicted I’m sad if he didn’t feel how much joy he brought others. I hope the fans’ love for him heals his family.
After the frenzy dies down, I will take my kids down to Seau’s and admire the jerseys again and order Mama Seau’s dish. I am positive that his lifetime achievements and continued contributions of his Foundation will outshine any negativity surrounding his death. Fight On!