Junior Seau is now enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He is one of the greatest linebackers to ever play the game. He was a San Diego Charger, he was a Miami Dolphin, he was a New England Patriot. He was a teammate, he was a friend, he was a father.
Junior Seau is no longer with us because he commit suicide on May 2nd, 2012, leaving behind an incredibly loving family and network of people who cared for him deeply. Seau's brain was examined and it showed signs of CTE, a concussion-related condition that leads to depression.
But the Seau that everyone knew, and the one that touched the lives of millions, was simply known as "Buddy" for the way he addressed every person he interacted with.
"Junior didn't know anyone's name. No one's name. At all. So he'd call everyone 'Buddy'," Defensive coordinator Matt Patricia said in a team meeting. "But he had a system. Alright, if it was 'Buddy Buddy"' he actually had no idea who you were, whether you were a player or coach. If it was 'Buddy', he knew you were a player, but he didn't know your name. But if he gave you the extended one, 'Buddeeeee' he knew your name, knew who you were. So he had this whole language in and of himself, with just the word 'Buddy', and that's why we just started calling him 'Buddy'"
"He called me 'Buddy', too," Head coach Bill Belichick chimed in.
Here's how the Patriots players remembered him.
Vince Wilfork (@wilfork75) August 9, 2015
One of my fave football memories was sharing a table inthe #Patriots linebacker room with Junior #Seau Congrats Buddy you make it! #AllTimer— Chad Brown (@chadbrown94) August 9, 2015
Buddy is looking down and smiling tonight!!! There will never be another one, on and off the field!!! #55 in #HOF2015— Dan Koppen (@koppen67) August 9, 2015
Congrats Junior, Thank you for teaching me how to be a pro. #pfhof #greatness pic.twitter.com/QxhXzgULX5— Rob Ninkovich (@ninko50) August 9, 2015
Seau was a nine-time All Pro (6x first team, 3x second team) and retired with the third most tackles of all time. He was not around to receive this award. Let the words of his daughter act as the lasting memory of Seau.
What keeps coming to mind when I think of him is the fact that he was basically superhuman. On the field he was relentless, hard-hitting, passionate and unstoppable. Off the field he was caring, gentle, hilarious and generous. On top of that he played within the league for 20 years, and that in itself is pretty exceptional.
But I think what we tend to forget about our favorite invincible, unstoppable, indestructible superhumans is the minor detail that they are also human. That is something that we all must endure today without his physical presence. We cannot celebrate his life and achievement without feeling the constant piece that's missing.