Remembering the Chargers great

Fans Gather at Qualcomm to Celebrate Junior Seau

The celebration began at 6:30 p.m. on Friday

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    TK
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    SAN DIEGO, CA - MAY 11: Friends, family members and supporters pay tribute to former NFL star Junior Seau during a public memorial at Qualcomm Stadium May 11, 2012 in San Diego, California. Seau, who played for various NFL teams including the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots, was found dead in his home on May 2, an apparent suicide. (Photo by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images)

    Current and former NFL athletes addressed fans at a heartfelt ceremony honoring former San Diego Charger Junior Seau Friday evening at Qualcomm Stadium.

    Among the speakers were former Chargers players Dan Fouts and LaDainian Tomlinson, along with former Chargers Head Coach Bobby Ross and Torrey Pines HS alum and former NFL safety John Lynch.

    Former Chargers linebacker Billy Ray Smith also spoke at the ceremony, as well as San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and sportscaster Chris Berman, who spoke via satellite video.

    Junior Seau Mourners Gather

    [DGO] Junior Seau Mourners Gather
    Family and friends gathered at a private viewing of Junior Seau's body Thursday evening.

    Seau's son, Tyler, also said a few words.

    Miles McPherson, former Chargers player and the Senior Pastor of The Rock Church in San Diego, hosted the ceremony.

    He began by saying: “This is not a sporting event, it’s an event for us to heal and celebrate Seau.”

    “In this town, the word Seau is royalty,” McPherson continued.

    McPherson then introduced pastor Shawn Mitchell, who opened the ceremony in a prayer.

    “Tonight is the night we get an opportunity to reflect, remember, rejoice, celebrate the life of Junior, who’s meant so much to us. Thanks to his family for sharing your son as the Son of San Diego,” said Mitchell.

    Speaking directly to Seau, Mitchell continued: “Junior, we don’t know if you can see us down here, but it’s your night and we thank you for what you gave us.”

    Mayor Jerry Sanders then took the podium to say a few words about San Diego’s hometown hero and talked about Seau’s many achievements as a San Diego sports icon.

    “Of all of San Diego’s most accomplished athletes, Junior was the most charismatic. All of us will always remember him as a San Diego Charger,” said Sanders.

    Former Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts spoke next, after a video aired on the stadium’s jumbotron of Fout’s first meeting with Seau in the 1980s.

    “Junior Seau will always be a Charger. His relationship with Charger fans was one of a kind,” said Fouts.

    Fouts recalled a humorous story about the time he asked Seau how to properly pronounce his last name.

    “He said, `Say-Ow.’ Because when I tackle someone they say `ow,’” recalled Fouts.

    “He was more than just the [stats] and numbers; he was the ultimate leader, the ultimate teammate,” he added.

    After Fouts spoke, former Chargers linebacker Billy Ray Smith took the stage.

    He recalled when Seau was a rookie on the Chargers, fresh from playing at USC.

    Smith told an anecdote about the time he tricked Seau into paying for a very expensive team dinner – a rookie ritual amongst the Chargers team.

    Smith said Seau took the prank in stride, and never even got angry about it.

    The next morning, Smith said Seau – who he fondly nicknamed “June Bug” – got some sweet revenge on him for the dinner prank by “borrowing” his credit card and buying a bunch of expensive flowers for every single female staffer working in the Chargers offices.

    “So I was really popular for a couple of days,” Smith quipped.

    Smith then spoke directly to the thousands of Seau fans in the stands.

    “Junior Seau, I wanna tell everybody here, make sure you know, Junior Seau loved you guys. Loved you all. And, I’m relatively sure you loved number 55. He was a great friend, a great teammate and I will miss him forever. Rest in Peace, Junior,” said Smith.

    Former Chargers Head Coach Bobby Ross spoke next, remembering Seau as a “very special player and a very special person.”

    “Junior was a leader. Some are leaders by what they say, some by what they do. Junior did both. He walked the walk and he talked the talk.”

    “He was loyal to his teammates, to the Chargers, to you people of San Diego. But most of all, to this wonderful family sitting right here,” said Ross.

    “He gave of himself, totally and completely,” he added.

    “Junior never had a bad game. Every one he played was good.”

    “I don’t believe there has ever been a player in the National Football League who has played in a city like San Diego and done more for a city than what Junior Seau has done for San Diego,” said Ross.

    “Your spirit and your passion will always be with us. And, for every home game here in the future, you may not be seen, but your spirit will be seen. Coming through the tunnel, wearing number 55 and striking that lightning bolt like it’s never been struck before,” he added.

    After Ross, a video message was aired on the Jumbotron from sportscaster Chris Berman who praised Seau’s enthusiasm and love of football.

    “Junior, the man, always had time for everybody, made everybody feel comfortable. He epitomized life. The light that Junior Seau shone upon us, will outlive all of us on this Earth. His mark was indelible,” said Berman.

    Former NFL safety John Lynch spoke at the ceremony next and talked about how Seau always called everyone “Buddy.”

    “Before I even knew Junior, he was the guy I always idolized,” said Lynch.

    “He pushed me to be greater. [He has] inspired players all over this league to do great things in their community,” Lynch continued.

    Former Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson was next to deliver a touching speech.

    “I’m honored to be here in San Diego today; I wish it was under different circumstances. However, tonight we celebrate the life of a good and loyal friend,” said Tomlinson.

    LT said he looked up to Seau ever since he was a kid and wanted to be just like him.

    “He had an infectious style about him that made everybody want to be like him,” said Tomlinson.
    Tomlinson talked about the time Seau gave him tips on where to propose to his wife.

    “`Go down to La Jolla and go on the Cove and she’s gonna love you forever.’ She’s still with me, cause I followed Junior’s word,” he said with a smile.

    “He taught me the true meaning of giving back to a community. He impacted me to give back to this community. I gave back to this community because Junior did it. He was so special. He encouraged me to give back,” Tomlinson added.

    He wrapped up by speaking directly to Seau’s parents and family.

    “Mama Seau, Papa Seau, it’s time for you to take a bow. Everything you instilled in Junior and taught him to do, he did that. Don’t be sad today -- be happy, because Junior lives through us. He lives through you,” said Tomlinson.

    Dean Spanos then took the podium and invited Seau’s kids – Tyler, Sydney, Jake and Hunter – to the stage.

    Spano took a moment to officially retire the iconic No. 55 jersey saying:

    “There’s only one Junior, only one number 55. [This jersey] will always say `Seau.’”

    Junior’s son, Tyler Seau, said a few words of gratitude to the fans and for his father.

    “You have made this process a little easier. All the support and love you [the fans] have given us this week has allowed us as a family to come together and be strong,” said Tyler.

    “He is truly a legend, and he will be with us forever. You will be missed, and never forgotten,” Tyler said of his father.

    Pastor McPherson left the crowd with three words to live by -- “faith, family and friends” – things McPherson said Seau truly valued in life.

    Between the emotional speeches, the crowd was shown videos of Seau's life and career, as well as videos of his work with The Junior Seau Foundation.

    For photos from Seau's Celebration of Life at the Q, check out this gallery.

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