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.
Max Tuerk is a HUGE man, but he is just what the San Diego Chargers need heading in to the future.
Let us all take a moment to congratulate and welcome Max Tuerk to the Bolts family!!
I know there were many people, myself included, who were hoping that GM Tom Telesco would pull the trigger on a center this year. Frustration has mounted over the use of a guard or tackle snapping the ball to Philip Rivers, regardless of how much training each man receives to shore up a position when needed. Granted we understand the “next man up” philosophy that coach John Pagano loves to talk about; sometimes it just seems like a broken record.
Tuerk said during his interviews that he grew up watching the Chargers and has tried to model his playing style after retired former Bolt Nick Hardwick. The rookie is the first center to be drafted by San Diego since they chose Hardwick in 2004 at the 66th spot.
Although the youngster is still rehabbing from last October’s ACL tear it is expected that he will be able to compete for the starting slot at his position. He may need to add some weight and muscle to his 6’5″ and 298 pound frame in preparation of facing heavier, bulkier and faster opponents.
He has the right attitude and that should help him as he transitions from college to professional football.
I, for one, am ecstatic that Tuerk is a Charger. The former USC Trojan was one of my two “wishes” for successor to Hardwick. I believe he is more than capable of grabbing the reins in both hands and being the Bolts need on the offensive line to ensure that Philip Rivers stays upright.
Bring on mini-camp!!
Thanks for reading!
It is said in football that depth is a must. After all, it is the nature of the beast. Injuries can happen at any time, from mini-camp and training camp, to practice and games. A team HAS to be prepared for that eventuality.
While the San Diego Chargers were bitten by that bug, most often on the offensive side of the ball (particularly the last two seasons), there were stretches where the defense was banged up, as well. The offseason has seen the Bolts part ways with Donald Butler and Kavell Conner. Of the linebackers currently on the roster, half will be second-year players and at least three of them had limited playing time due to injury.
So, what do you do if you are in Tom Telesco’s shoes?
Maybe you look for someone who can fill the bill in the form of Su’a Cravens.
Weight: 225 pounds
40-yard Dash: 4.65 seconds*
Arm size: 32 1/8 inches”**
Hand size: 9 1/2″ inches**
Vertical jump: 30 1/2 inches”*
Broad jump: 114″ inches**
*Pro Day **Combine
The former USC Trojan converted from linebacker to safety late in his college career. Has room to fill out his frame. A natural playmaker, he is instinctive, tough and smart. Aggressive and athletic, a blitzer. Will not hesitate to jump into the mix. Very physical dropping back and does a great job in press coverage. Would be able to hold his own in man coverage against tight ends and wide receivers. Outstanding with his hands. Ability to engage and quickly disengage his blocker.
What could possible be a weakness for Cravens? Well, the fact that many people aren’t sure where to place him on their D could be considered a problem. Being tagged as a tweener could be tough. Linebacker or safety? His speed is not impressive, at all, and his size for the linebacker position may be a problem at the NFL level. Additionally, he struggles to finish plays while defending the run, occasionally taking poor angles. Knowing that he is still learning the linebacker position, it will take him time to adjust to the power and quickness of the pros, especially when thinking about his ability to shed the blocks of NFL offensive lineman.
Su’a Cravens has a great deal of positional flexibility to offer any defense. The rub will be that he would need to go to a team that can take advantage of his ability to shift back and forth between linebacker and safety. Putting in reps on special teams while adjusting to the speed of the NFL — plus having distant cousin Manti Te’o to learn from and encourage him — would be something for the potential draftee to look forward to.
Hearing Su’a Cravens’ name called as the next citizen of San Diego this week during the draft would certainly help the Chargers’ defense.
Thanks for reading!