News that linebacker Junior Seau has died today sparked reflections of his time with the Patriots.
Seau played for the Patriots from 2006 to 2009 and was often called upon to deliver motivational words before players left the locker room on game day. The passion oozed, with some players crediting Seau for helping them seize the moment and fully appreciate the opportunity they had.
The image of a devastated Seau following Super Bowl XLII captured the heartache many in the region felt at that moment. Seau had come to New England in ’06 in hopes of winning his first Super Bowl championship after 13 seasons in San Diego and three in Miami, and some in the locker room rallied around the idea of winning it for him.
Bill Belichick, who lauded Seau’s leadership and willingness to accept any role that contributed to the team’s success, has brought a lot of different players into the team’s locker room, but Seau was particularly unique. He might have been the oldest player in the room, but few beat him to work. His energy was infectious.
Players joked about how Seau would call everyone “buddy-buddy” because he didn’t always remember their names. He was a hard worker, but he also liked to keep it light.
“I learned so much from you ‘buddy buddy,’ … one of my favorite people & favorite teammates!!” receiver Donte Stallworth said Wednesday on Twitter.
When it came to football, Seau arrived with questions about his durability, but he started 10 of 11 games in 2006 and then appeared in every game of the team’s undefeated 2007 regular season (four starts).
The Patriots didn’t re-sign Seau before the 2008 season, and when the club visited the Chargers early that season, owner Robert Kraft arranged a special ceremony at Seau’s restaurant to present him his AFC championship ring. That spoke to the connection that Seau had made with the higher-ups in New England. He was always complimentary of the Kraft family and Bill Belichick.
Then, when the Patriots had a run of injuries late in 2008, Seau went from the surfboard right into the huddle (four games played, two starts).
A similar scenario unfolded in 2009, when Seau initially wasn’t with the team. But he was signed in the middle of the season, with the hope that his presence would help unify a locker room that had yet to come together.
Passion. Presence. Energy. Motivational speaker. Sense of humor.
Those are some of the things that come to mind when reflecting on Seau’s time with the Patriots.