The emotional let down of a championship defeat is one thing for fans and analysts alike to bear, but the permanent loss of a life is something so much more difficult to process. Seau was just a few years away from his near-guaranteed induction into Canton's Hall of Fame and only three seasons removed from playing for the New England Patriots.
Seau spent four seasons in New England, entering as one of Bill Belichick's favorite players and leaving cemented as one.
"I haven’t coached too many that are any more passionate than Junior is," Bill Belichick said in October 2009 after signing the 40-year-old back to lend stability to an immature defense. "I think that’s good for all of us. It’s good for him, it’s good for all the players, it’s good for the coaches [and] it’s good for the team. He brings a lot of positive energy and toughness, so those things are all good."
Tom Curran of the NECN.com put it best in calling Seau "a transcendent Patriot."
What did Junior Seau mean to the Patriots? In 2008 and 2009, his on-field relevance diminished, the Patriots would still use a game-day roster spot so that he'd be in uniform on their sidelines to lend stability and leadership.
Seau was also one heck of a beloved teammate in that locker room—and many more, for that matter. Curran included a couple quotes in his piece from Seau's Patriots teammates that really illustrate just how much of a leader this guy was, despite his advanced age.
"Before every game, you have to get your popcorn ready because you can't wait to hear those speeches, let alone see his face and the emotion that comes out," teammate Kyle Arrington said in 2009. "It's really indescribable how you can hear it in his voice -- the emotion, the passion, the hunger."
Pryor also shared his thoughts.
"We all gather up, and there is a silence in the room, and everybody is just looking at him," Myron Pryor said. "You're listening to him speak, and he's getting everyone going. There is a little chill down your back, a little sweat on your forehead."
The team released a statement in reaction to Seau's passing today.
“We were shocked to hear of the initial reports regarding Junior Seau earlier today and are deeply saddened by the news of his death. We were fortunate to have had Junior join the Patriots in 2006 and are thankful for his many contributions to the team over the next four years. He had a legendary NFL career and his unrivaled passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite here in New England. This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his many friends who will mourn this loss.”
I've never wrapped up a piece like this before, and it's no fun task to bring this grim news. Junior Seau was a terrific football player and was truly inspiring to watch.
Life is so fragile and unpredictable. Sometimes we're reminded of that in the most terrible of ways.
These are the days that make being a football fan hard.