Frank Buncom, LB
Steve Busick, LB
Jim Collins, ILB
Bob Horn, MLB
Ken Hutcherson, LB
Carl Mauck, C
Derrie Nelson, LB
Hmm, not that many guys wore 55 for the Chargers. I wonder why that is… Maybe because one guy was HOGGING IT for 13 years!
Under normal circumstances, when the winner is so obvious, I forego the formality of a Runner Up, but there are a few 55s worthy of mention.
Carl Mauck was a serviceable center who actually became one of the best Offensive Line coaches in the NFL, including for the Chargers.
Frank Buncom was a high-quality linebacker (3 "All-Star" game appearances) on the great AFL teams of the 60s.
Bob Horn was the forgotten centerpiece to the Coryell defenses – which must be some kind of oxymoron.
But let’s face it, this is all about another 55.
Junior Seau, LB
Say what you will about what Junior has BECOME, which is something of a pariah around Charger park. He spat in the face of his own "graduation" party by un… graduating. He didn’t even have the presence of mind to unretire out of the CONFERENCE. And then he did it a second time! He’s become the poster boy for indecisive aging veterans who just don’t know when the hell to leave well enough alone. He and Brett Favre should make a commercial together where they’re sitting on a see-saw!
But amidst all that, let’s not forget what Junior WAS. A freak of nature. While Lawrence Taylor was redefining the outside linebacker position, Junior was changing the face of what a middle linebacker could do and should look like. He had the quintessential size for the position, but possessed uncanny speed. Not a powerful hitter, per se, but a very solid tackler. Relentless in pursuit, and blessed with a motor that had no off switch. I won’t bore you with stats – except the 12 freakin’ Pro Bowls, 6 first-team All Pros, 11 seasons of 90+ tackles, 47 sacks, and 15 interceptions. And those are just the non-boring ones.
Junior's departure from the Chargers was a little reminiscent of another recent Charger icon's. And reading the several BFTB posts that have shared favorite memories of LT's exploits made me think about some of my favorite Junior-isms:
His ability to pursue running backs "sideline to sideline."
Celebrating an interception return before he had really even returned the interception.
Seeing him writhe in pain from one of the many stingers he suffered during the ’94 season, only to get up and keep playing.
Watching him run off the field after Dennis Gibson knocked away O’Donnell’s pass.
Sure, there were moments of over-aggressiveness, poor coverage, and he wasn’t the greatest blitzer (choosing to take on blockers head on rather than finesse or out-maneuver them). But you’ll never find a guy who defined "heart and soul of a franchise" the way Junior did.