It’s been exactly one year since the passing of Junior Seau, and the death of one of the greatest Chargers in team history still resonates within the organization and the entire city of San Diego.
“He will always be missed,” said Chargers President Dean Spanos. “It’s been said and will continue to be said that his contributions off the field were in some ways even more important than his contributions on the field. It is going to be somewhat empty going forward without him. His personality through his leadership kept this team thriving through some very difficult times. With him, we went to the Super Bowl which was the pinnacle of our franchise to date. I’m proud that he was around and a part of some of our highs. He kept us running at a high level. He never gave up and always came to work with a positive attitude and wouldn’t accept otherwise.”
Seau was clearly not only one of the greatest Chargers on the field, but he was the soul of San Diego. His impact still resonates throughout the entire city.
“He’s a part of San Diego,” said Spanos. “He was friendly to everybody. He never considered himself better than anybody. He was really part of the fabric of San Diego. The fans respect him and his legacy based on what type of person he was. He was a caring person, he loved San Diego and couldn’t do enough for the city and the people. I think people will always remember him for that.”
Equal to how much he meant to San Diego was Seau’s impact on his teammates, who remember him fondly and still mourn him to this day.
“His passing is as fresh as if it happened yesterday,” said Darren Carrington, Seau’s teammate from 1991-94. “No one can take away his legacy and what he meant to the team and the city. He definitely left his mark here. If there’s a way to play the game and act, it’s how Junior did it.”
Many of his former teammates recounted Seau’s legacy as one that will live on forever.
“I believe Junior’s legacy was a hometown boy with an amazing work ethic and faith that elevated him into a phenomenal career and a leading athlete ever to play and originate from the city of San Diego,” said Jon Carney, who played with Seau for 11 seasons. “He will forever be remembered for his efforts and amazing play on the field and for his extraordinary gift of time, treasure and talent off the field for the city of San Diego. He was a phenomenal teammate. He made everybody around him better, not only the defense, but all 53 men on the roster. He made coaches better. He had a passion for the game that was contagious. But more importantly, he was a great and true friend.”
Darren Bennett is another longtime teammate of Seau who spoke with a heavy heart about the impact still one year later that his death had on him.
“Obviously it was a devastating situation for San Diego, and I’m very touched by how the city reacted to the loss of Junior,” said Bennett, whose name stands right next to Seau’s in the Chargers Ring of Honor at Qualcomm Stadium. “It’s still very sad that he’s gone. But to have my name forever besides his, that is something special. When he encouraged me my first year, it gave me a lot of confidence and courage that I could play in the NFL. His inspiration to me during my career, he’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with. So to have my name associated next to his is something I will always be very proud of. Every time I have a surf, I think about him.”
Even though it is the anniversary of Seau’s death, there’s another reason why Seau was at the top of Bennett’s mind.
“With drafting Manti (Te’o) the last few days, I would have loved to have seen him around to be a mentor to him. He’s definitely going to be missed for a long time here in San Diego.”
In fact, Te’o, a Samoan linebacker just like Seau, talked about the legendary Charger during his introductory press conference, speaking out about the impact he had on his life and how he looked up to him.
“Junior Seau was special, not only because of what he did on the field, but because how he made the people of San Diego feel” said Te’o. “I’m looking forward to helping my team win, and helping bring a lot of pride and tradition back to San Diego the way that Junior did.”
One year later, the pain from Junior Seau’s death remains. But more importantly, what lives on in the hearts of fans, his teammats and current Chargers is what he meant to the city of San Diego and the Chargers franchise.