Ex-NFL linebacker Junior Seau remembered by 20,000 fans
San Diego, CA, United States (AHN Sports) – A champion, hero and loyal friend.
With these words, 20,000 fans remembered and honored former star linebacker Junior Seau during a public memorial service at Qualcomm Stadium Friday where he starred for 13 years while playing for the San Diego Chargers.
Regarded as one of the best, if not the best, defensive NFL players of his generation Seau died on May 2 at his home in Oceanside, just north of San Diego, from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. He was 43.
Seau played the first 13 of his 20 NFL seasons in San Diego. He was the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft and led the 1994 Chargers to the Super Bowl.
“Junior Seau, I want to tell everybody here, loved you guys,” former Chargers teammate and linebacker Billy Ray Smith told the crowd. “I am pretty sure you loved No. 55 as well. He was a great friend. He was a great teammate.”
Another former teammate, LaDainian Tomlinson, moved the crowd to tears as he remembered Seau.
”He was a good and loyal friend,” Tomlinson said, adding that Seau inspired him to become a better player.
Bobby Ross, coach of the 1994 Chargers who advanced to the Super Bowl, said passion is what he remembered most about Seau, not just in football, but in many aspects of life.
“For life. For football. For family. For Chargers. For the people of San Diego. And people in general. Always positive. Always upbeat,’ he said.
Ross also recalled Seau’s many charitable contributions to the community. ”I don’t believe there’s a player who played in the National Football League who has done for a city what Junior Seau has done for San Diego,” he said.
“Of all San Diego’s most accomplished athletes, Junior was the most charismatic, the one that had the biggest impact on a room simply by walking into it,” San Diego Mayor Mayor Jerry Sanders said.
During the memorial, Chargers owner Dean Spanos announced that the team will officially retire Seau’s jersey No. 55 to the roar of the crowd.
“Junior’s accomplishments on the field speak for themselves,” Spanos said. “His play on the field combined with his leadership and charisma became the face of this team for more than a decade. I can’t think of anyone more deserving of this honor.”
The team will formally retire the number in a halftime ceremony during the Chargers’ regular-season home opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 16.
Chargers players will wear a decal bearing number 55 on their helmets during that game, and a giant No. 55 banner will be hung at Qualcomm Stadium and flown at every future home game.
“What a class move,” Tomlinson said after the ceremony. “Whenever people think about Junior Seau, it’s number 55. … whenever you think about that jersey, when that guy turns around, it has to have Seau on the back.”
Dan Fouts’ No. 14 and Lance Alworth’s No. 19 are the only other jersey numbers retired by the Chargers. Fouts and Alworth also are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.