Junior! Just hearing his name evokes all sorts of images and reminders of one of San Diego’s hometown heroes. He was a beloved and favorite son.
I never met Junior, but I’m sure that the term “hero” is probably one that would have made him uncomfortable. From what I have read about him, I think it would be safe to say that his response would be something along the lines of he was just showing his gratitude in his own simple way to a community and fanbase that idolized him when he was just doing his job. A job he loved so very much. A job that, ultimately, once he hung up his cleats, he could not reconcile being away from. It was a fundamental part of him that eventually caused him to take his own life.
May 2, 2012.
A day many Chargers fans would probably prefer not to remember.
As I write this, it is the four-year anniversary of Junior’s death. I vividly recall feeling the utmost shock when my husband told me, “Seau’s dead.” My brain could not fathom that one of THE most vibrant Chargers’ players was gone. He was so young. The circumstances were more mind-boggling when it was reported that he had shot himself in the chest. Later it was announced that he had deliberately done that to make certain his brain could be donated and posthumously examined for CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).
Tiaina Baul “Junior” Seau, Jr. was born in San Diego and played his early football years in Oceanside. He lettered in three sports for the Oceanside Pirates. He accepted a football scholarship to the University of Southern California after graduating from Oceanside High School. Seau was named Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in 1989 after totaling 19 sacks and 27 tackles-for-loss as well as receiving All-American honors that year.
It is no wonder that the Bolts took the ferocious, hard-hitting linebacker with the fifth pick in the first round of the 1990 NFL draft. His play was like lightning. One couldn’t help but become engaged while watching Seau blitz the offensive line followed by his signature celebration. Junior would leap up, pump a fist and kick out a leg after dropping a ball carrier or quarterback. How could you not get caught up seeing the ferocity and excitement of Seau over the course of three hours?!
No. 55 brought so much vitality to not only the sport he lived and breathed, but to the people who watched his team because he was one of its stars. He was a very compassionate man who loved giving back to his community and fans. He WAS the San Diego Chargers. HE was the face of the franchise.
He wore lightning bolts on his shoulders from 1990 until 2003. That year, Seau signed with the Miami Dolphins and played there for three years. After Miami let him go, he came home to California.
I remember watching the sports news on August 15, 2006. He had signed a one-day contract with the Chargers. A press conference was held at Chargers Park for all of us to witness Junior’s announcement. The heart and soul of the defense for 13 seasons acknowledged his fellow players, coaches and team management. He stood at the podium, explaining his decision saying, “It’s pretty easy. When a team doesn’t want you or need you, retire, buddy.”, eventually to be followed by the words, “I’m not retiring. I am graduating.” Then he shocked us all four days later by signing a one-year contract with the New England Patriots, stating, “I’m going for my master’s now.”.
There were many honors bestowed upon Seau throughout his stellar 20-year career: 12 times voted to the Pro Bowl; NFL Defensive Player of the year (1992); Walter Payton Man of the Year and AFC Player of the Year (1994); two-time AFC Defensive Player of the Year (1992 and 1998), just to name a few. In 1994, he helped lead San Diego to its lone Super Bowl berth, facing the the San Francisco 49ers. It was a blowout loss. In 2010, he was inducted into Oceanside High School’s Hall of Fame. On September 16, 2012, a mere four months after his death, he was honored by having his jersey No. 55 retired. The white, blue and gold banner with his name and number hangs and flies high above Qualcomm Stadium.
The best was yet to come, however.
August 8, 2015, the final accolade. It was bittersweet to watch as he was posthumously voted in to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. The Bolts’ beloved linebacker finished his career with 1,524 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions.
Perhaps one of the most poignant descriptions of Seau was this one made by former NFL cornerback for the Green Bay Packers and San Diego Chargers Willie Buchanon. He claimed, “Mr. San Diego, Mr. Oceanside, everything that deals with football in this community deals with Junior Seau.” This on the field of Seau’s high school alma mater, when his No. 11 jersey was retired there.
We all miss you, Junior Seau. In our minds, we can see you strumming your ukelele and singing your songs, or being in one of your favorite places, the ocean, riding those sweet waves as you surf to your heart’s content. In our hearts we recall your infectious smile, your enduring friendship, your deep compassion, your profound love of family.
Most of all, we will remember the inspiration that was you.
Rest in peace, buddy!!
Thanks for reading.
As the Chargers entered this year’s offseason, there was concern as to how Tom Telesco will address the lackluster receiving corps. Granted, injuries crippled the team last year, however, it was evident that there were not enough weapons or speed surrounding Philip Rivers.
Free agency opened this last February and top free-agent receivers were being signed at a rapid pace. Former Charger Eddie Royal was not re-signed and made his way to the Windy City. These factors alone triggered San Diego fans to grow anxious each week as Telesco took his time to lock up a game-changing wideout. Then there was Stevie Johnson, former Buffalo Bill, and most recently San Francisco 49er, who was signed to a three-year, $12 million contract with the Bolts.
There was no doubt that Johnson had some success in Buffalo. He proved to be a clutch receiver all while recording career numbers. From 2010 to 2012 he surpassed 1,000 receiving yards, averaging over 13 yards per reception in each season. Yet, his decline in the last couple of seasons is very debatable. Some say it’s his age, however, it’s far from it; it certainly has been the personnel throwing to him.
Rivers is easily a top-five quarterback, so it’s only natural he makes those around him better. The twelve-year passer has been building a rapport with Johnson this offseason; which has subsequently elevated not only Johnson’s receiving ability, but the receiving unit as a whole.
Yes, the backfield struggled severely last season, but the receiving corps didn’t even break the top ten. This year will be different with what has been brewing at Chargers Park.
Johnson enters a new season, with a new team, but with an exceptionally seasoned quarterback. He has the tools and resources to make this his best year yet. The Rivers and Johnson duo will, without question, make strides in ’15.
Briana Soltis (@BrianaSoltis)
Football is back.
Although there was the obvious stadium chatter among the fans, it was easy to just keep my eyes on the field — maybe except when I “accidentally” recorded that good-looking girl walking by — and concentrate on Charger football.
There was no tackling, the players were in shorts and the play calling was very vanilla.
All of that being said, without over-evaluating the guys after their first day, there were some takeaways after day one of training camp.
Here are some notes and observations.
– Many of the players, including Keenan Allen and Jacoby Jones, started having fun as soon as they stepped out onto the practice field.
– There were ZERO players working on the side. For a team that seems to be missing crucial players due to injury quite often, it was incredibly refreshing.
– Philip Rivers and Eric Weddle were up to their usual jawing.
– Jason Verrett looked to be the fastest player out there.
– First offensive play was a completed drag route from Rivers to Ladarius Green.
– Melvin Gordon has a long way to go, but you can tell he has the tools to be special.
– The team rotated DJ Fluker and Joe Barksdale at right tackle in early phases of practice.
– Although Barksdale also saw some action at right guard, Johnnie Troutman was primarily out there with the first-team offense at the position.
– Stevie Johnson wears a weird hood on the outside of his helmet. Not sure why.
– Stevie made a highlight-reel catch on a play where Stevie Williams had solid coverage on him.
– Craig Mager realized that he is no longer at North Texas. He struggled often.
– Gates made a few solid plays. He had one toe-tapping grab on the sideline on a well-placed pass from Rivers.
– Kyle Emanuel was on the first-team for punt coverage.
– Denzel Perryman knocked down a pass over the middle.
– Jacoby Jones can run.
– Danny Woodhead looked quick and explosive. Nice to see him back.
– Similar to Woodhead, Branden Oliver was quick in and out of cuts.
– Craig Watts — in as a reserve left guard — had two straight plays in a row where he did a solid job opening holes in the running game, and good protection on a pass play.
– Orlando Franklin had a great practice. I am so glad he’s a Charger.
– Team speed has increased via acquired players and returning players coming back healthy.
– Titus Davis, a player I’ve written about a couple of times, looked good, catching the ball well.
– The cornerback position is deep at this point.
– Brad Sorensen wasn’t there for the early stages of practice, as his wife gave birth to their second child.
As mentioned above, it is way too premature to do anything other than throw out some first-day observations. But as long as we aren’t talking about the stadium situation, the team not extending Weddle’s contract, the Gates’ suspension or Rivers being hesitant to work out a long-term deal, I’m perfectly fine with throwing together some notes about today’s practice.
I’ll be there again tomorrow, and my major hope is the same that it is each day the Chargers practice: Just stay healthy.
Thanks a lot for reading.
After twelve years as an outside linebacker in the NFL, Jarret Johnson (JJ) has announced that he is hanging up his cleats. This comes to no surprise as Johnson has already produced a spectacular tenure in the league and has decided to retire on a high note.
JJ spent his first nine seasons playing for the Baltimore Ravens. Taken in the fourth round (109th overall) of the 2003 NFL Draft by Baltimore, he made an immediate impact his rookie season. During his time with the Ravens, he racked up an impressive 382 total tackles, 20 sacks, 9 forced fumbles, and 3 interceptions. Following the 2011 season, Johnson then became a San Diego Charger.
The Bolts signed the veteran on March 14, 2012 to a four-year contract deal. Besides the knowledge of the game, he brought much more to Chargers Park. His athleticism was countless, however it was his skillset at the strong side “Sam” linebacker position that made him so valuable. His ability to call the blitz elevated the Chargers defense to a more effective and stealthy unit. Most importantly, Johnson could scrap, push, and breakaway from blocks which allowed him to pummel the running back to the ground. Johnson recorded 85 total tackles, 5.5 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles for the Bolts.
JJ was more than just a great player, he was an even better mentor and role model. He spent the last three years of his career with the Bolts and has made an everlasting impact on the young linebacker unit. Anyone can play a sport, but it’s what you can do for your teammates that make you invaluable. Current San Diego players took to Twitter to express their gratitude and appreciation for their teammate. Take a look below.
Even fans too took to Twitter to show their JJ fandom.
Johnson voiced his retirement on Instagram yesterday by saying “Today I am announcing my retirement from the game I love. I lived a dream which few can say but it’s time to move on. I want to thank the Chargers organization for giving me a home these past three years.”
Players like JJ will forever be missed on and off the football field by coaching staff and fans, but especially his teammates. On behalf of BoltBlitz.com, we would like to express our upmost respect for the talented linebacker and wish Jarret Johnson a very happy retirement. It’s certain that he will prosper in the next chapter of his life. Thank you again for the fire and passion you bring to the game we all have come to love.