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Seau, Junior

Junior Seau

1969-

American football player

Known for his dominance on the defensive side of the ball, Junior Seau entered the league in 1990 as a first-round draft pick by the San Diego Chargers and soon became a linebacker whose name was mentioned with other contemporary greats, such as Lawrence Taylor and Derrick Thomas . In a sport known for its brutality and the need for its players to maintain an air of indestructibility, Seau is a rarity in that he is truly a humanitarian, giving back as much as he gets, devoting much of his time away from the field to charitable endeavors.

Growing Up

Though fans know him as Junior Seau, he was born Tiaina Seau on January 19, 1969, in Oceanside, California. His father, Tiana Sr., and mother Luisa were natives of Samoa from the island of Aunuu, who came to America seeking medical help for Junior's older brother. Seau's father, though strict and unrelenting, had instilled early on in Junior a strong moral sense and a work ethic that Seau used during high school and then into college, propelling him to become one of the stars of today's NFL.

Growing up, Seau wanted to be a quarterback, but he led his school to the city championship as a linebacker

and tight end for Oceanside High School. He was named defensive player of the year, as well as earning all-state and USA Today All-USA honorable mention. He was an all-around outstanding athlete, excelling not only at football, but also in basketball and track, all the while doing very well in the classroom, being named to California's All-Academic team with a 3.6 grade point average.

When he graduated, he was recruited by the University of Southern California, but he did not have a very good first few years. As he recounted in Sports Illustrated, during his freshman year he couldn't suit up because he had scored ten points too low for the NCAA rules on his SATs. The setback only served to motivate Seau to work even harder. That spring he won USC's annual contest of strength, physical endurance and speed (known as the "Superman" contest), beating out every other player on the football team. It seemed that he was back on track, but then he injured his ankle prior to the start of the second season and was out for yet another year.

Finally, his junior year, two starters were injured, giving Seau the opportunity he needed to prove his worth. He had a great season, earning All-American Honors and the PAC-10 Defensive Player of the Year award. With only one season of college football under his belt, Seau opted to not take any more chances or risk injury and another season away from the field. He entered the National Football league (NFL) draft.

Playing for the Home Team

The San Diego Chargers picked up Junior Seau in the 1990 draft and he immediately made an impact on the team. He was moved to inside linebacker, and even though this was a position he wasn't familiar with, his enthusiasm for the game wasn't diminished and he did his best to accommodate.

At USC Seau had been an outside pass-rusher. Still, he managed in that rookie season to finish second on the team in tackles, making the change in positions almost seamlessly and learning quickly how to cover running backs on pass plays.

In his second season Seau earned a trip to the Pro Bowl, beginning a long string of Pro Bowl appearances. Then in the 1992 season, with new coach Bobby Ross at the helm, Seau was the catalyst for the Chargers, who finished with an 11-5 record and the division title. In what was the biggest turnaround in NFL history, the team went from losing their first four games to finishing with an 11-1 record the rest of the season.

Seau is the leader on the team, no doubt about it. In a 1994 AFC Championship game, Seau had sixteen tackles against the Pittsburgh Steelers and helped the defense hold a late surge by the Steelers in a game that the Steelers had said they would have no problem winning. Seau and the Chargers' defense held the Steelers to only sixty-six yards rushing. The Chargers would lose the Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers, but Seau would have eleven tackles and one sack in the game.

Chronology

1969 Born Tiaina Seau, Jr., in Oceanside, California, on January 19 to Tiaina Sr. and Luisa Seau.
1976 Learns English for the first time
1985 Voted Outstanding High School Athlete by Parade magazine
1986 Enters University of Southern California
1988 Receives big break in college when gets starting position two weeks before season starts
1990 Drafted fifth overall in the first round by the San Diego Chargers
1990 Voted second alternate to the Pro Bowl in first NFL season and named to Football news All-Rookie Team
1991 Starts the Junior Seau Foundation
1993 Daughter Sydney Beau born on August 7
1995 Son Jake Ryan born on October 18
1996 Opens "Seau's: The Restaurant" in San Diego
1997 Seau's restaurant voted "Best Sports Bar" of the year by the San Diego Restaurant Association
2000 Named to Chargers 40th Anniversary All-Time Team

Continues to Excel

Seau's impact on the field has been and continues to be greateven with a Chargers team that finished the 1990s with a struggle. In the past few years the team has turned things around, acquiring quarterback Doug Flutie and, most recently, Drew Brees. In 2002, Seau's Chargers were in playoff contention up until the final game of the season. Playing in an extremely tough AFC West division, the team just missed the playoffs.

Junior Seau seems to have fun with life, taking the opportunities afforded him by football and turning them around. He told ESPN's The Life that his one weakness is buying sunglasses (he buys a new pair almost weekly). Other than that, he doesn't see the need to spend all of the money he earns on himself. Though he was one of the first NFL players to begin his own apparel line, the "Say-Ow" Gear, Seau's impact off the field is probably greatest in the area of philanthropy.

He started his Junior Seau Foundation in 1992, an organization developed to help out kids who, like Seau, don't always have the best opportunities growing up. The foundation's purpose, as it says on the foundation's Web site, is "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."

Though he'll be one of the most passionate players on the field, Junior Seau's work off the field and the contributions he makes to his community put Seau at the top of the list of NFL players who give back.

Career Statistics

Tackles Fumbles Interceptions
Yr Team TOT Solo AST Sack FF BK INT TD
SD: San Diego Chargers.
1990 SD 85 61 24 1.0 0 0 0 0
1991 SD 129 111 18 7.0 0 0 0 0
1992 SD 102 79 23 4.5 1 0 2 0
1993 SD 129 108 21 0.0 1 0 2 0
1994 SD 152 126 26 5.5 1 0 0 0
1995 SD 129 113 16 2.0 1 0 2 0
1996 SD 138 111 27 7.0 1 0 2 0
1997 SD 97 85 12 7.0 1 0 2 0
1998 SD 115 94 21 3.5 1 0 0 0
1999 SD 99 80 19 3.5 1 0 1 0
2000 SD 123 104 19 3.5 1 0 2 0
2001 SD 95 85 10 1.0 1 0 1 0
2002 SD 84 62 22 1.5 1 0 1 0
TOTAL 1481 1205 276 47.0 11 0 15 0

Awards and Accomplishments

1989 Voted unanimous first-team All-America at University of Southern California
1991 Begins string of eight consecutive Pro-Bowl appearances
1992 Voted AFC and NFL Defensive Player of the Year, as well as first-team All-Pro
1993 Named Chargers "Edge Man of the Year"
1994 NFL's Linebacker of the Year; True Value Hardware Man of the Year
1995 NFL First team All-Pro
1996 Named AP All-Pro First Team
2000 Named to Pro Football Hall of Fame's All-Decade team for the 1990s; named NFL Alumni Association's Linebacker of the year

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: Junior Seau, c/o San Diego Chargers, P.O. Box 609609, San Diego, CA 92160.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Notable Asian Americans. Detroit: Gale Research, 1995.

Sports Starts. Series 1-4. Detroit: UXL, 1994-98.

Periodicals

King, P. "Labor of Love: Junior Seau the consummate pro, pushes on for the lowly Chargers." Sports Illustrated (October 23, 2000): 96-98, 100.

Samson, Kamon. "Junior Achievement; Seau is still heart and soul of stout Chargers defense." Gazette (Colorado Springs) (October 5, 2002).

Sport (October 1994).

Sporting News (January 16, 1995).

Sporting News (January 23, 1995).

Sporting News (January 30, 1995).

Sporting News (February 6, 1995).

Sporting News (January 8, 1996).

Sports Illustrated (September 6, 1993).

Sports Illustrated (December 22, 1997).

USA Today (August 5, 1997).

Other

http://www.juniorseau.org/juniors_career.htm (December 22, 2002).

Interview with Dan Patrick. http://espn.go.com/talent/danpatrick/s/2000/1017/822877.html (December 22, 2002).

"Junior Seau." http://www.nfl.com/players/playerpage/4239 (December 22, 2002).

Sketch by Eric Lagergren

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