My girlfriend, Megan, and I had the opportunity to travel to Canton, Ohio and visit the Pro Football Hall of Fame and attend the Class of 2015 Enshrinement Ceremony last year. Personally, I was excited to attend as a diehard Charger fan and show support of Junior Seau, who was to be enshrined that day.
Another player to be inducted that day was Steelers halfback, Jerome Bettis, evidenced by the foam school buses on many people’s heads. Canton, Ohio is only about a two-hour drive from Pittsburgh. Needless to say there were Steelers fans everywhere. Some of them complimented us on coming so far to support Junior, saying he was a great player, or said it was sad he had left us so soon. The respect Steelers Nation showed to him and to us will be with me for a long time.
We eventually met a group of Seau fans from Oceanside, Junior’s hometown. We talked about our favorite memories of Junior and took pictures together. A great moment was shared when the group was asked to cheer in front of the Hall of Fame for the NFL Network broadcast, all in our Charger gear.
The day of the Enshrinement Ceremony is the busiest day at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, something to keep in mind if you are ever planning to visit. The line to enter the Hall of Fame Gallery, where the bronze busts of each inductee are on display, was very long. We were told by an employee that they couldn’t guarantee we would get in to see the busts because they were closing the museum early so the Packers and Vikings players could have a private tour before the Hall of Fame Game the next day.
We risked it, and about two hours later, made it in to see the great Charger players already enshrined: Lance Alworth, Dan Fouts, Sid Gillman, Charlie Joiner, Ron Mix, Kellen Winslow and Fred Dean. Junior’s bust would be revealed to the whole world in a few short hours. It was worth the wait.
Soon it was time to leave the Hall of Fame and enter Tom Benson Hall of Fame stadium next door. It’s a 22,000 seat, outdoor football venue, perfect for the Enshrinement Ceremony. The Hall of Fame stadium plays host to many high school and college football games during their seasons as well as the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies, and Hall of Fame Games, played the the day after the ceremony to kick off the NFL preseason each year.
We made it to our seats and I started to reflect. I thought about Junior as his transcendent smile would flash on the jumbotron every few minutes. The jumbotron started to show career highlights of the other members of the Class of 2015. When Bettis’ highlights came on about 20,000 Terrible Towels would go up in the air accompanied by loud cheers and chants. Ironically, many of Junior’s highlights were of him tackling The Bus in the backfield for a loss, effectively quieting the crowd, if only for a moment.
It was finally time for Junior’s bust to be revealed. Master of Ceremonies, Chris Berman, introduced a short tribute video to Junior. Next, Junior’s children were allowed on stage to reveal his bust to the world. Due to a controversial NFL policy on posthumous inductions, none were allowed to speak. Junior’s daughter, Sydney, was then taken off stage and interviewed by an NFL Network reporter. Despite the NFL-induced oddity of the whole situation, Sydney spoke with the poise, bravery and the heart of a true champion. The emotion permeated all in attendance.
During her interview, I thought about Junior’s career with the Chargers, his legend, what he meant to the fans and to the City of San Diego. I thought about what he still means to us all. Men who give their hearts and souls to their community, never truly leave us. They live on in all of us, in our memories, in what we say and do every day.
San Diego had lost it’s two favorite sons, Junior and then Tony Gwynn. At the time of this ceremony it was all but certain, we would lose the Chargers as well. For me, that’s when the tears came. At some point I looked up to the sky and imagined Junior and Tony, shoulder to shoulder, smiling down on us.
This experience has given me the determination to follow the exceptional example set by these two great San Diego men; to do what I can to make my community a better place. I won’t be able to be the best player on the field, or donate millions to local charities, but I can treat everyone I meet with respect and love, as these two did. I can take the time to educate people on the downtown stadium proposal, or at the very least, talk with them about it. I think that’s what Junior would have wanted. If we all do a mere fraction of what these two men did over their lives, we can make this town a better place, maybe even keep our beloved Bolts!
Thanks for reading!
In this time of worry over the location of the 2016 Chargers, it is nice to see that some Bolt fans remain loyal to the team no matter what. Allow me to introduce John P. Schell. John and I have been friends since the ‘70s and despite traveling the world with the United States Army and finally settling down in Minnesota, his loyalty to the boys in blue and gold remains strong. We will start off with a brief bio of John followed by some questions and answers designed to help you get to know him better.
Will: Okay John, give me a brief background of who you are and your life experiences.
John: My personal goal in life is to be a better person than I was the day before. As a husband, father, son, uncle and friend to others, loyalty and leadership describes my personality when working, playing, or just hanging out with people. I had the privilege to serve in the U.S Army for 10 years as an Armor Crewman on the M60 and M1 series main battle tanks. If you saw the movie Fury with Brad Pitt, being a Tanker was the ‘best job I ever had”!
Will: Do you, or have you ever lived in San Diego?
John: I was born and raised in San Diego (Clairemont Rules!) in the late 60’s, 70’s, and half of the 80’s. After finishing my military commitment, I returned to San Diego for my post High School education, achieving my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and off I went into the business world and never looked back.
Will: Now that you live in Minnesota, how hard is it to find fellow Chargers fans? Are there any Chargers sports bars nearby?
John: In 2003, I had a great promotional and career changing opportunity with my company to live and work in the state of Minnesota. All I knew about Minnesota at that time was cold, snow, Vikings, Twins, and Prince. I accepted the challenge and moved my family to the Frozen Tundra in 2003. After 12 full winters (I count winters, not years here) in the beautiful state of Minnesota, it was a great decision all around. I miss my friends, authentic Mexican food, yes the warm weather after sub-zero degree weeks in December/January, but I mostly miss my Chargers on Sundays during the NFL season. I’ve searched all over the twin cities for Charger backers, clubs, bars, and fan clubs, but to no avail. When I wear my bolt (which is all year long) out in public, many Minnesotans say; “I like the Chargers, especially when they had Fouts, JJ, Winslow, Joiner, Chandler, and Muncie. Your team song San Diego Super Chargers is catchy as well.” Minnesota is an NFC town, so I have yet to hear any Charger haters, which is awesome!
Will: As for being in the military; First of all, thank you for your service. Second, did you have any other Chargers fans stationed with you? How much opportunity was there to keep up with the NFL?
John: Yes, my Army buddy was from Chula Vista. We met on the plane from San Diego on our way to Ft. Knox, KY for basic training. He is a diehard Bolt fan, and we drove all the other soldiers crazy when we saw them on TV or heard we won. I think we may have roughed up a few Raider, Chief, and Bronco fans along the way as we had to represent our Bolts! When stationed at Ft. Knox during the 85′ and 86′ seasons, finding the Charger game on TV was difficult being that these were two poor seasons (8-8 and 4-12 respectively) and the Chargers wouldn’t be the national game televised on Sunday. Had to wait for the halftime highlights to get updates (no internet, no smart phones, no satellite TV then). Overseas in Germany, it was pretty much the same with no visibility to watch the Chargers on the Armed Forces Network. My brother taped some of the games and I’d watch them on my $500 VCR a few weeks later when they arrived in the mail. Always loved seeing the shots of Charger fans with all the blue and gold in the stands and hearing the loud cheers.
Will: How long have you been a Chargers fan?
John: I have to say 1974 was the year I became a Charger fan for life. The names I’ll never forget were Jessie Freitas, Dan Fouts, Don Woods, Bo Matthews, Gary “The Ghost” Garrison, and Ray Wersching kicking field goals.
Over the next few years while in elementary school, the Chargers would send a player to come speak to us for an assembly (I remember Carl Mauck/Center talking to the kids and giving away a team photo). I also remember when we did have rainy days in San Diego during school; we would watch Charger highlight films instead of playing outside. That was fun! In my little league baseball days, Charger linebacker Ray Preston was a coach for one of the teams. What a treat that was to have a professional NFL football player from the San Diego Chargers helping out as a coach for that year.
((Will, this has to hit home for you too.))
Will: What was your most painful memory as a Bolt fan?
John: That’s simple for me. 2006 season, 14-2, No. 1 seed in the playoffs with home field advantage, divisional playoff game vs. the Patriots. We lost 24-21 and I was depressed for a long time. Still hurts, just not as much.
Will: What was your favorite moment?
I was very fortunate to be invited to the 1980 playoff game between the Bills and Chargers. First game I ever went to, and it was special. Great game up to the final minutes when Dan Fouts hits Ron Smith for a 50 yard touchdown pass to win the game. The crowd was electric and the feeling was unforgettable that game!
Will: Do you collect Chargers gear or memorabilia? If so, what is your prize possession?
John: The same brother that sent me Charger game tapes when I was in Germany gave to me an autographed authentic Junior Seau San Diego Charger helmet that sits next me at my desk. By the way, my brother worked at Seau’s the restaurant in the 90’s and really got to know Junior. My brother introduced Junior to me at his restaurant and it was amazing to spend a few minutes with him sharing his stories about San Diego. Great memory!
Will: Who is your favorite current Chargers player? How about all-time?
John: Favorite current Charger is Antonio Gates. He just gets the job done, he’s tough, all about the team, and seems to be a respectful man off the field.
All-time favorite Charger(s) is not one person, but a group. I loved the late 70’s defensive line known as the Bruise Brothers consisting of: “Big” Louie Kelcher, “Mean” Fred Dean, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson, and Leroy Jones. They were a unit that performed so well and excited Charger fans with their teamwork.
Will: Who is your pick for the best Chargers quarterback of all-time? Why?
John: No doubt, Dan Fouts. He showed leadership, skill, results, heart, winning, making others better and most of all his toughness. We all remember the severe hits he took, bloody noses, limping around on bad knees, yet he always showed up and competed with one purpose, to WIN!
Will: What position(s) do you feel needs to step up in 2015 in order for the Chargers to be true contenders?
John: Offensive Line needs to step up. Replacing Nick Hardwick is huge. O-Line needs to protect Philip and open the holes for the RB’s.
Will: How do you feel about the possible move to LA/Carson? Will you still be a fan?
John: I don’t even like the thought of this move happening. It would hurt all of us loyal Charger fans and the city of San Diego in a huge way. Yes, I’d still root for my Chargers just as I do for the Clippers and Rockets in the NBA who moved out of San Diego.
I’d like to thank John P. Schell for his service to our country, for taking the time to answer my questions and for his undying support of the San Diego Chargers. If you have any comments or questions for John or myself, please leave them below.
It was heartbreaking to witness a divisional loss against the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday, October 19, 2014. Divisional games, no matter if they are away or at home, are difficult in every aspect of the game. This game also marked a moment in Charger history – Leslie O’Neal, defensive end/outside linebacker from 1986-1995, was inducted as the 37th member of the San Diego’s Chargers Hall of Fame (HOF). What you may not have recognized is that this was the 4th consecutive contest lost during a Charger HOF induction game in recent years.
Since 2008, there have been five games that have introduced a new member to the Charger’s HOF; all but one of those games have ended in losses. There isn’t necessarily a HOF induction game every year, 2009 and 2010 to be exact, yet in years 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 all have inducted a player during a halftime ceremony and each game has ended in a loss to an AFC team. After yesterday’s defeat, it’s safe to say that there is a noticeable losing streak for the Chargers during these induction games.
Fred Dean was inducted to the Chargers HOF in 2008, and that was the last time the Chargers won one of these special games. On November 27th 2011 the Chargers played a significant game versus the Denver Broncos during which, the notorious Junior Seau, one of the Chargers best linebackers ever, was inducted at halftime. Unfortunately, the game ended in a gut wrenching 13-16 overtime loss to their division rivals – a game that Tim Tebow won’t ever forget.
In 2012, Darren Bennett, a punter from 1995 to 2003 was introduced as the 36th member into the Chargers HOF during another Denver Broncos rival game. As if history repeated itself, the Chargers again fell to the Broncos 24-35 after a historical 24-0 deficit comeback. Keep in mind, this season also prompted the removal of the former regime at head coach and general manager and instantly the 2013 season looked more promising. At this point you might be thinking, “A couple of games isn’t a losing streak”, yet following years will prove you wrong.
The 2013 season was a special year. The 1963 AFL Championship Team was inaugurated to the Chargers Ring of Honor on December 1st – fifteen members of the team were already in the team’s HOF. Yet, the Chargers were again defeated, racking up three turnovers and falling to the Cincinnati Bengals 10-17 – giving them a 5-7 record. Fortunately, the Chargers recovered their season and won their last four games giving them the AFC Wildcard into the playoffs.
As mentioned before, the Chargers dropped to 5-2 while being defeated at home yesterday, 20-23 to the Kansas City Chiefs. During halftime, Leslie O’Neal was inducted to the Charger HOF, marking the fourth consecutive year the Chargers have lost a momentous game. It’s no secret that the Chargers are having a fantastic season and have been earmarked to make the playoffs, but this HOF induction game losing streak needs to be squashed. There may not be another opportunity for a few years, however it’s one to keep in the books for future reference. Wouldn’t it be remarkable, though, if the next Charger HOF inductee was #24 LaDainian Tomlinson, and the Chargers defeated the New York Jets (another AFC team that LT once played for) during the homecoming game? What a marvelous way to break the frustrating HOF induction game losing streak!