Shawn Hobson… OCEANSIDE – Hundreds of people gathered at an Oceanside church Saturday afternoon to celebrate as Junior Seau was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Photos by Shawn Hobson
“I think it would have been too hard on me emotionally to go,” Annette Seau-Soto said of her decision not to attend the ceremony in Canton. “It would have just hurt too much.”
Annette is the fourth oldest of six children of Tiaiana Sr. and Luisa Seau. The couple attended the ceremony in Canton with Junior’s older brother, Savai’i. Seau’s daughter and three sons were also in Canton.
“Live life to its fullest, for the life you live is what God has given us to live,” Annette said to the church crowd. “Junior was different. He was completely loving and giving.”
Seau was a standout football player at Oceanside High School, then headed to University of Southern California. He was drafted by the Chargers in the 1990 draft with the fifth overall pick.
“That was the best thing for San Diego when he got drafted by the Chargers,” former Chargers cornerback Willie Buchanon said to the audience in Oceanside. “He was a legend, but more than that – he was Mr. San Diego.”
He played 13 years for his hometown Chargers, three years for the Dolphins and four years for the Patriots. Seau joins only 294 others enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Seau, who was a first-ballot selection, entered the Hall of Fame posthumously. He died May 2, 2012, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Some of the spectators in Oceanside teared up as they watched Seau’s daughter, Sydney, speak during a video tribute to her father, a linebacker who played 20 years on the NFL.
“He was more than just my dad. He was more than just No. 55. He was a light,” Sydney Seau said, fighting tears in front of the crowd in Canton. “ I want nothing more than to see you come on stage and give me a hug, and tell me you love me one last time, but that is not in reality. Dad, I love you and miss you. You made it.”
Former teammates and coaches spoke at the event in Oceanside. Former Charger kicker Carney grabbed laughs when he spoke of Seau’s playful nature.
“June Bug, we miss you,” Carney said.
The Chargers had the best run defense in the league in 1998. Wayne Nunnely was the defensive line coach.
“We had pride in stopping the run. Nobody would run against the Chargers,” Nunnely said. “Junior drove us crazy. He would do his own thing.”
Nunnely said Seau had a great work ethic, studying offenses. He could tell when an opponent was going to run or pass, based on the position of their feet. The linebacker would then call an audible, telling his teammates to move to different locations based upon what he read. It worked most of the time, Nunnely said.
New Venture Christian chaplain Shawn Mitchell was the Charger’s pastor during Seau’s playing days. Mitchell was in Canton, but he taped a video tribute for the Oceanside crowd.
Other videos for the Oceanside audience included one from Seau’s parents. Mother Luisa thanked Mitchell and New Venture for holding the event. His father shared his love for Somoa and its appreciation for his son.
Seau is the first Polynesian to enter the Hall of Fame. Polynesian dancers performed at the Oceanside event, and Hawaiian BBQ was prepared.
“I think Junior would have really liked this,” Junior’s oldest sister Mary said of the event at New Venture Christian Fellowship. “This is where the love is, getting together celebrating good music. Everyone is smiling and happy. This is how we grew up.”
Visitors at the ceremony in Oceanside left pleased.
“It was an awesome experience,” Oceanside resident David Taylor said. “I’m not a Chargers fan. I am a 49ers fan, but I am a Junior Seau fan.”
Taylor wore Seau’s No. 55 jersey to the event.
Contact Shawn Hobson at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @HOBMediaWorks.