SAN DIEGO — It was Wednesday, May 2 when news spread throughout San Diego and the country about Junior Seau’s death.
For Chargers fans Leroy “L.T.” Williams, Annette Brown and Richard Lopez, who were all attending the team’s home opener Sunday wearing Junior Seau jerseys and t-shirts, each could remember where they were when they’d heard the news.
“I was at work…and I was working overtime,” said Williams, a season ticket holder and fan since the days the Chargers played at Balboa Stadium. “I didn’t get off ‘till late in the afternoon and all-of-the sudden, then all I could hear was, ‘Did you hear Junior Seau died?’ I’m saying, ‘Hell, he’s just a young kid.’ I was in shock,” he said. “It’s a shame what was going through his mind.”
Williams said he watched each game Junior ever played in. “I just enjoyed his enthusiasm and everything else. He was one of the best linebackers we ever had.”
Before the Chargers faced the Tennessee Titans, the organization retired Seau’s number 55 with a ceremony that involved former Chargers quarterback Dan Fouts and Seau’s parents and children.
A banner, blue and gold with Seau’s iconic number 55, was unfurled at the west end of the stadium next to the only other numbers the Chargers have retired (Fouts’ number 14 and Lance Alworth’s number 19.)
“He was the ultimate leader on the field for the Chargers, in 13 great years, and equally…in the San Diego community,” Fouts said during the ceremony.
“The highest honor that a team can bestow upon one of its players is to retire his number. And there’s no one more deserving than our friend Junior,” Fouts said.
For Annette Brown, a Chargers fan since 1986, Seau meant the greatest, she said. “He was just a vibrant guy who went out there and gave his all for the game and just really got all the fans involved in the game, and really made you feel like you were part of the team,” she said.
26-year-old Richard Lopez has been a Chargers fan all of his life. He watched Seau play throughout his Charger career and really remembers the excitement that Seau played with, he said. “He was so explosive. He seemed like he had a motor that never ran out.”
Lopez said the retiring of Seau’s number was “about time.” He said they should have done it a long time ago.
The last time the Chargers retired a player’s number was Alworth’s in 2005; Fouts’ number was retired in 1988.
“Our guys have so much respect for Junior,” said head coach Norv Turner after the 38-10 win over Tennessee. “And it’s not like our guys played with Junior. Most of them, if they have a recollection of Junior it was playing against him. We all remember the play he made down on the goal line in the Championship game where he came under a block and it’s a third- and-two play and he made a big play to stop us.
“I probably have a better understanding of Junior because I’ve coached with two teams with him; just a remarkable individual. If you’re going to say, ‘Here’s a football player,’ I don’t know that you could build one better than Junior Seau. He was an inspirational guy to be around. Not Sundays. I’m talking about a day-to-day basis,” he added.
“Our guys know how hard it is to play a game in this league, much less to do what Junior did and play the number of years and play in the Pro Bowls…being in the Hall of Fame and being recognized by our football team with his number being retired, and my feelings for him are awfully strong.”