In 2006, Junior Seau had never worn a New England Patriots jersey. He had never driven his car off a cliff. He had never committed suicide. He seemed genuinely happy. Maybe that's why I've always liked this memory best.
From his own restaurant, with a smile on his face, Junior Seau walked away from the National Football League and seemed happier to had played the game than anyone who had ever retired before him. He implored the collected media and fans to not feel bad for him. He was graduating. He had his whole life ahead of him.
When he took a job with the New England Patriots a few months later, a lot of Chargers fans felt wronged. Not me. For as much as he loved the game, it had to be near impossible for him to say no to a chance to play again (and play for a title). And looking back, it's reasonable to think that he took that job because he needed the money.
Junior Seau made me a football fan, the same way Tony Gwynn made me a baseball fan, which makes tomorrow extra special for me. I'm not even sure if I'll watch Seau's induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame tomorrow, but the big man will definitely be on my mind, as he is so often.
Take a minute out of your Friday or Saturday, before watching people remember the player that Seau was, and remember why we loved him so much. Listen to this speech and hear in his voice how much he loved us, the fans, and how much he loved the game.