Goodbye 55

Junior Seau - (FILE) Junior Seau 1969 - 2012

Just when you think you’ve got life all figured out it comes up behind you and smacks you in the head with something else.

Oceanside, CA. is an ocean front town about 30 miles  north of downtown San Diego. Its home to a eclectic mix of different nationalities. It’s also just south of Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, the busiest military base in the United States. I have come to love Oceanside and some of my favorite people live and work here.

Of course no story about Oceanside can be complete without mentioning our favorite son, Tiaina “Junior” Seau

It’s also home to Oceanside High School, where the Pirates ran amok on the football field. One of their alumni was a Samoan Standout football player named Tiaina “Junior” Seau. Junior created mismatches and struck fear in his opponents. He went on to USC with the same work ethic and earned a ticket to the NFL. In 1990 he was chosen 5th overall in the 1st round by his home town San Diego Chargers and couldn’t have been more excited for the opportunity to play at the highest level in front of his family and friends.

He was known for his passionate playing style, he was a 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, and named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  He was the focal point of the defense and the team as a whole.

I don’t think there is an NFL football quarterback who doesn’t have their favorite Junior story.

This past May 2, 2012 Junior took his own life leaving behind a legacy that will live on despite him not being here in body. His soul and spirit will live on through his aloha that he demonstrated while he was here on this earth. He left behind his ex-wife Gina  and their four children, brothers and sisters and the family Patriarch & Matriarch, Mama & Papa Seau who all live in Oceanside. Prayers should also go out to Megan Noderer, who seems to have gotten lost in the aftermath. She was Junior’s girlfriend and  the person who found Junior in his home on the Strand. Right below is the call that Megan Noderer made to 911, but it was too late.

There is no question that Junior was Oceanside’s Favorite Son. He was involved in his community and never forgot where he came from. He was always giving back to Oceanside, was always seen with a smile and if he met you once he’d remember you as if you were lifelong friends and he’d always called you “Buddy.”

I had the pleasure to meet Junior twice, the first time was at the LaDainian Tomlinson Celebrity Golf Tournament. My ex-father in law is a huge NFL fan  so I took him. We met Junior at the Reception afterwards and I remember him asking if I was Hawaiian.  He had a special place in his heart for the Hawaiians and Samoans. The second time was at a business lunch at Seau’s in Mission Valley, one of the attendees lived out of state and kept asking if Junior ever came into the restaurant, he wanted to meet his football hero. After the 3rd or 50th time he asked about Junior I looked up to see Junior walking our way. His familiar “Hey Buddy, Howzit” was how he addressed me and then he asked if I had been home to Hawaii recently. I introduced him to the other guys at the table and they were impressed by how “down home” Junior was and his friendliness towards strangers.

The Junior Seau Foundation sponsors three major programs each year to benefit children and was built on the following mission statement:

To educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational programs.

Shop with a Jock®  

Each December, the Junior Seau Foundation Teamed up with Target and over 250 local professional and amateur athletes to give 250 underprivileged children from the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Diego the opportunity to shop for gifts for their loved ones.

Scholars of Excellence Program

This program was designed to recognize young men and women who are dedicated to both personal and academic excellence. Financial assistance is granted to high school graduates who have the grades and the desire, but not the means, to attend a four year college or university. In 2011 the Foundation awarded 25 scholarships amounting to $107,500 in financial aid.

Thanksgiving at SEAU’s The Restaurant

Every Thanksgiving Junior hosts a dinner for 700+ clients of non-profit agencies, including homeless shelters, rehab centers, victims of domestic violence and military families at SEAU’S The Restaurant in Mission Valley.

Junior Seau Foundation Around Town

Junior’s footprint can be found all over San Diego as it worked hard  to empower and educate young people in the community. From funding athletic fields in La Mesa to underwriting a van to transport special education students enrolled at the Stein Education Center in Chula Vista, his Foundation has focused on making a direct impact in the community and will continue to do so even after . The foundation continues to allocate funds for programs that inspire young people to face life’s challenges with enthusiasm, hope and dignity.

I wanted this to be right so that is why it’s 2 weeks after Junior’s passing, Junior and his spirit of aloha, a smile that could light up an entire stadium, and that now too familiar phrase “Hey Buddy” will be missed

Junior was only 43, far too young to leave this earth, again another sad reminder that we don’t know when our time is up here. Make sure that you tell those around you that you love them. Give them a hug just because. Do something totally unexpected for someone, but do it now, don’t wait because then it might be too late.

Below is a link to the 911 call from Junior’s house. Credit goes to Oceanside P.D. Fire Department & the dispatcher for doing their best to keep Junior’s girlfriend somewhat grounded.