Junior Seau and 3 Stars San Diego Embraced as Its Own

Kevin AbblittCorrespondent IIIJune 6, 2012

Junior Seau and 3 Stars San Diego Embraced as Its Own

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    San Diego, a vacation city rich in sports history and stacked with talent, has yet to hoist the coveted hardware from its two major sports teams. Nonetheless, San Diego has bared witness to some of the greatest athletes, both past and present.

    As I scrolled through the possible players to place on this list, talent was an understatement.

    These players were dominant on the field and gentlemen outside the stadium lines. An ideal representation of what it means to be a San Diego athlete.

    Through milestones and record-breaking seasons to injuries and losing seasons, these next few players have given us light and delivered us with memories and timeless moments that we will forever cherish.

    The only way to thank them is by glorifying their abilities and acknowledging their efforts. The city thanks you and I thank you. We are all so proud to call you our own.

    Honorable Mentions: Dan Fouts, Tedd Williams, Phil Mickelson

Junior Seau

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    Passion; Charisma; Explosive; Dynamic: words that often surface when I think of the late great icon of San Diego. He was a relentless pass-rusher, giving chase to wherever the ball would be. 

    Shedding 300-lb offensive linemen like rag dolls and putting his mug in the quarterback's grill became a common scene for his opponents.

    I could reach into his prestigious tenure in the NFL and extract staggering statistics like 10-time All-Pro and 12-time Pro Bowl selection, but Seau was much more than that. He epitomized the game of football and harnessed the energy of San Diego as his own.

    During the business hours, Seau was a menace, but off the gridiron, he was a philanthropist and an active leader in the community.

    A man fraught with enthusiasm, Seau always sought more out of life than just gridiron. Upon returning to his hometown of San Diego, Seau reached into his community and developed the Junior Seau Foundation, which has raised millions of dollars benefiting the Boys and Girls clubs of Oceanside, Calif.

    His tragic loss resonates with all of San Diego and the NFL. A 13-year veteran with the Chargers and a San Diego icon, Seau will be forever missed. His style and tenacity of play will remain but a memory in the history of the city.

Mr. Padre

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    If there is anyone on this list that embodies the city of San Diego to its fullest extent, it is, without question, Tony Gwynn.

    Respected across the league, Gwynn was a one-man wrecking crew for 20 seasons with the Padres, who only made one World Series appearance in 1998.

    There wasn't anything unusual about Gwynn's game; he just played with an unprecedented work ethic. He was a true student of the game. Better known for his slap hitting to the tabbed 5.5 hole, his abilities to spray the ball across the diamond propelled him to reaching 3,141 career hits, placing him at No. 19 all-time.

    "Overpowering" wouldn't be a proper choice of word. Rather, consistency is what he would pride himself on. Wherever the ball was placed, he would send it right back. Capping off his career with a lifetime batting average of .338, eight batting crowns, five Gold Gloves and 15 All-Star selections, Gwynn marched his way to the front steps of the Hall of Fame. 

    Rightfully so, No. 19 will never be worn again in a Padres uniform.

L.T.

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    The man behind the mask—Webster doesn't have enough words to describe his talent on and off the field. 

    There will never be another player that will be able to breathe the same air or rest in the same sentence as No. 21. The man would send crowds to their feet every time he had the ball in his hands.

    Turning back the clock, one of the most influential trades in Chargers history came in 2001. In exchange for what would have been Michael Vick, the Chargers received LaDainian Tomlinson.

    Lovely how things pan out sometimes.

    When the Bolts selected L.T., they were the joke of their division and, more or less, the league. That being said, Tomlinson stepped into the starting role immediately. With the raw talent and athleticism he possessed, he put the Bolts back on the map and into the conversation once again.

    A dying clubhouse, Tomlinson put the team on his back and ignited the resurgence that bound the team and city together. He brought the Chargers from beneath the laughing stock of the league to the owners of the AFC West divisional title in a few short seasons.

    Now for a look back at one of the most statistically sound seasons in NFL history. 2006 was a highlight-reel season for No. 21.

    He shattered his competition by finding the end zone 19 times in only six games. He then conquered a milestone of reaching 100 touchdowns in the quickest time, 89 games. He also became the first back to rush for 1,236 yards for six consecutive seasons. Tomlinson would cap off his prestigious year with 2,323 yards from scrimmage, to appropriately go with 31 touchdowns.

    And as a side note, three of his 31 touchdowns were passing. You could say he had a nose for the end zone.

    L.T. was everything the Chargers and the city of San Diego could have asked for in a back, and then some. He brought new life into the city and a viral enthusiasm that hadn't been witnessed since Junior Seau's 1994 AFC Championship team.

    Although a native of Texas and a former N.Y. Jet, LaDainian Tomlinson will forever be a Charger in my eyes.

Trevor Hoffman

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    42,000 strong waving their towels chanting for his arrival. The lights go out, and the anticipated bells begin to toll. The later-coined "Trevor Time" was highlighted by ACDC's "Hell's Bells." The only introduction worthy of the same status was Rick Vaughn's "Wild Thing."

    No. 51 was a staple in the back end of the Padres bullpen and a role model to the city of San Diego for 16 prestigious seasons.

    Signed, sealed and delivered, Trevor Hoffman electrified the crowd every time he took to the field. What I admired most about Hoffman was that he knew he couldn't climb the ladder on his opponents, so he stuck to his bread and butter: his signature change piece. 

    Topping out around 80 mph, whenever he was looking to escape a threat, he would call upon his pitch to alleviate any troubles. It would pay dividends, time and time again.

    Although everyone knew it was coming, every hitter that came to the plate looked like they were in a fly-swatting contest, whiffing at an alarming rate.

    Compiling 18 years of providing the closer role, Trevor concluded his Hall of Fame career with 601 saves, which sits him in second place all-time.