LB Junior Seau (Elsa/Getty)
San Diego icon Junior Seau, 43, was found dead in his Oceanside home on Wednesday. The apparent suicide has stunned the Chargers organization and blindsided the community. A member of the NFL 1990s All-Decade team and the Chargers Hall of Fame, Seau was among the most impactful players ever to don lightning bolts.
The statistics are overwhelming, but they do not do justice to Junior Seau. He finished his 20-year NFL career with 1,524 total tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions. He led the Chargers to their only Super Bowl appearance in the 1994 season and also made it to the Big Game with the New England Patriots in the 2007 season.
He earned 12 Pro Bowl invitations and was named All-Pro six times.
"I was shocked," current Chargers receiver Vincent Brown told SDBoltReport.com. "I couldn't believe it. He was one of the greatest players, greatest Chargers, greatest people of all time. I was very, very shocked."
Brown, who entered the league as a third-round pick in 2010, knows Seau despite coming from a different generation. Not only has Brown played his entire football career in Seau's backyard (having played college ball at San Diego State), he has also worked with Seau at community events such as Shop with a Jock.
"It's amazing what he's done," Brown said. "Just the person that he was. He cared so much about people. Everybody loved him. It's shocking. I'm still kind of speechless."
Seau's charitable exploits were boundless. His namesake project, the Junior Seau Foundation, worked to help children avoid and overcome hardships. He was also a respected local businessman, owning Seau's the Restaurant in Mission Valley.
It was his presence in San Diego after his Chargers days were over that helped him transform from memorable to legendary.
That included coming back to give inspirational talks at Chargers Park.
"He came in and spoke with us a few times," said Ryon Bingham, who played nose tackle for the Chargers from 2004-2008, in an interview with SDBoltReport.com. "His talks were just phenomenal. This guy had high intensity and a non-stop motor ... he never let down. Every time he spoke to us he seemed to have his head on square. He was one of those guys who came across as very prominent.
"It wasn't just football. He talked to us about surfing up in Oceanside and the spiritual nature of that. He was amazing."
Bingham never played alongside Seau, having joined the Chargers two years after Seau was traded to the Miami Dolphins. But Bingham battled Seau’s Patriots in the postseason, twice, and the experience is one Bingham won't forget.
"I remember one play where Junior lined up out of position," Bingham said. "But somehow he rushed the line and smacked (LaDainian Tomlinson) in the backfield for a 3-yard loss on a big goal-line play. The guy was unbelievable."
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Michael Lombardo is a long-time contributor to the Scout.com network. His analysis has been published by the NFL Network, Fox Sports and MySpace Sports. He has followed the Chargers for more than 16 years and covered the team since 2003. You can see more of his updates by following him on twitter.