- Mike Rodak, ESPN Staff Writer
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- On Thursday afternoon, Patriots special teams captain Matthew Slater offered reporters a reflection of his two seasons playing alongside former teammate Junior Seau:
"Just knowing Junior -- the type of guy that he was, the type of person he was. He was so full of life. And everybody keeps saying that but he was. He was so full of life and it just comes as a total shock. Your heart really goes out to his family. You know, you saw his mom's response. No mother should have to bury her son, so I just think we're all in a state of shock right now.
"Growing up in Southern California… Junior Seau was a legend. Back to his time at USC, to his time with the Chargers. I grew up idolizing Junior. And then having a chance to play with him for two years and seeing how he was off the field -- the type of man he was. He was a leader that was second to none. And it's really just a surprise and a shock, but he touched so many lives just by the person that he was, so I can understand why it's getting so much attention.
"My dad [Hall of Famer Jackie Slater] played against him and I played with him. So how about that? That's just a testament to Junior and how long that he played… 20 years of great football. The ultimate professional in the way he approached the game. The leader that he was. That's what I keep thinking about: the leader and the type of man he was. He'd have you ready to run through a wall before a game. Second to none.
"He knew my name. He knew my name. [laughs] And he remembered playing against my dad; he'd always ask me how my dad was doing. I kind of had a surreal moment my rookie year. We were playing the Cardinals out here and we were beating them pretty good. They put me in at safety and I'm jogging back to the huddle and Junior Seau is jogging back to the huddle with me and it was like, 'Man, this is a guy I grew up watching and I'm playing with him now.' It was pretty special for me.
"... I just remember as Junior was giving the speeches, and after the speech, you were ready to take on the world, it seemed like. That passion he had for this game, it was second to none, and he knew how to motivate guys. He knew how to get guys focused on one goal, and that was to go out there and have success on Sunday's. But he just had a special way of being able to communicate and relay that message to us as players and ... like I said, Junior was second to none as a leader."