The First Time I Met Junior Seau, I Loved the Man

An All-Pro made time for a high school kid who never forgot it

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In this NBC 7 SportsWrap commentary, Derek Togerson shares a personal story about how Junior Seau affected his life

This weekend you will be regaled with tales of the greatness of Junior Seau. All the stories, all the accolades, all the kind words will be heartfelt and filled with raw emotion, much like the way he played the game of football.

I started working in San Diego in 2005, so the first time I interviewed Junior was at his retirement/graduation (the one that was soon overturned by a chance to win a Super Bowl with the Patriots). But that was not the first time I met the NFL legend.

That came way back in 1993. I was a senior in high school near Sacramento and a bunch of my buddies and I were at a local gym attempting to lift weights (when you graduate at 6'1" and 155 pounds, all you can do is really "attempt" to lift anything heavy). All of a sudden, in walks this monster of a man.

He was direct from Central Casting on the day they're auditioning muscle-bound action heroes. I firmly believe Junior could have been The Rock long before Dwayne Johnson became The Rock. Seau had that kind of build and that kind of presence.

After lighting up the room by shaking hands with everyone he saw, Seau went to the corner squat rack, put 225 pounds on the bar, and warmed up. He was just doing high-rep work, apparently. Meanwhile, across the way, this gaggle of 17-year-olds just saw slack-jawed at the display. It actually took us a second to figure out who it was.

This was in late January, right around the Super Bowl. Why Junior was in Northern California, to this day, I don't know for sure. I assumed he had family in the area. Why he was working out immediately after a long, grueling NFL season was simple. He had a Pro Bowl to go play and he wanted to make sure his body was ready for it.

That part I know for sure because I asked him. We got up the guts to interrupt his workout and ask for tips about proper squatting form. Yes, it was a cheesy line, but it worked. Junior Seau, a first round NFL Draft pick, Pro Bowl fixture and future Hall of Fame linebacker took 15 minutes in the middle of his set to put all five of us on under the bar and show us how to do it right.

The man even spotted for us (after removing about 100 pounds, of course). He made sure we got it, then went right back to what he was doing, smiling the entire time. That has stuck with me my entire life.

In a strange way, Junior Seau taught me to always try to be there for people. Even being as insignificant as I am in the public eye, sometimes people have questions they think I can answer. No matter what I'm doing I try to give them the time and respect to have a conversation, be it in line at the hardware store, on the phone or even on Twitter.

Junior Seau taught me a life lesson I would have never even gotten from my own parents because he cared about people. For that, I will always revere him. This weekend, like many members of the San Diego community, I absolutely miss him.

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