For me as a fan I feel there are many reasons to support the New England Patriots, but bias aside there is one reason that stands above the rest. Junior Seau. There is not a player on the New England Patriots, or in the NFL, who deserves his Superbowl ring more. This man just epitomizes what football and sports is supposed to be about. He brings a passion to the game that arguably no one in the NFL brings. It's infectious and you just want to see this guy succeed.
I remember a few years back when the Pats let one of my all-time favorite players, Willie McGinest, go to the Browns... I was devastated... I couldn't believe it, but at the same time this was normal for Bill Belichick. As a New England fan you get used to it. It didn't lessen the sting much though. Then came Junior Seau... and they gave him #55. I was livid. I was like "Who is this guy to come in and take Willie's number?". He quickly showed me EXACTLY who he was. As much as I loved the original #55 this #55 was something different... something special. He was this old linebacker coming into his 17th year in the league... and he could still go! I loved this guy... he was energetic, fun to watch and a few years short of 40! He amazed me every game he played in 2006. And then it happened. Seau broke his arm. I remember watching him lay there on the ground as I sat there comfortably on the couch thinking selfishly to myself "GET UP YOU JERK!". Then I saw what he'd done to himself. He'd broke his forearm CLEAN IN HALF!! I was almost sick... I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but what I saw next topped my prior feeling of disbelief. Junior got up and started walking around. At a time when most people go into shock from that kind of injury Junior got up smiling and hinting that he wanted to stay in. Once he realized the severity though the medical staff propped his arm and covered it with a towel. Junior walked off the field waving to the fans... smiling... as if he'd return after a few series. All of us in New England knew better... and so did he. His season was through and possibly his career. Next season though when he returned for an 18th season my respect for the man rose to new heights.
Ahh yes... the next season! The infamous 2007 season. In the offseason, fresh off an embarrassing loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game, Bill Belichick absolutely loaded his team with the likes of Randy Moss, the then unknown Wes Welker, Jabar Gaffney, Donte Stallworth, Adalius Thomas, etc. Bill Belichick was on a mission, but so was Junior Seau. For Junior it was just to simply come back and to contribute the best he could.
In a season for the Patriots ripe with wonderful story lines "Spygate" unfortunately took over and formed a life of it's own. Despite the fact that it was about a rule that every team had been breaking for years, the fact that the Patriots were also guilty of it became simply unforgivable in so many people's eyes. It was everyone's favorite excuse now for the Patriots success. It didn't matter how many retired and respected coaches came out and defended the Patriots... they were cheaters and apparently so was Junior Seau. In a season on the Patriots that should of been about his improbable return it became a media frenzy surrounding the team he chose to play for and about how they cheat and their current quest for perfection. Despite all of that it turned into a record setting year for New England where they conveniently blew out every team that had something negative to say about them. Junior was reaping the benefits and having a great season to boot. He played every game all the way to the end. And what an unfortunate end it was.
The worst part about the Patriots losing the Superbowl in 2007 wasn't the fact that my team failed to accomplish perfection, no, it was watching an unresponsive Junior Seau walk off the field as the confetti fell on him as the Giants celebrated their GIANT upset. Watching him walk off the field the emotions I felt were almost unbearable, but I couldn't even begin to understand what he must of been going through. The feeling of coming so close. The feeling of just missing out on NFL history. Once again his championship year eluded him in a season it never should of.
The off season was horrible for me. All I could do was think to myself "Just one more year Junior... you can win one", but the Patriots seemed to be reloading at linebacker and used their 10th pick in the draft to get Jerod Mayo. I finally accepted the fact that Junior Seau was done and 2007 might of been the culprit.
2008 ended up being an interesting year with Tom Brady going down in the first game of the season and all of the injuries that followed made it almost impossible, but they were still in a position for a playoff spot with four games to go. And then the call was made. Belichick had called Seau. He had returned. His reasoning for coming back was "Bill Belichick is the only coach I will continue to play for and as long as they keep calling I'll keep playing". To me this was unbelievably admirable and showed the man's dedication. Though some likened his refusal to permanently call it quits to that of Brett Favre I beg to differ. Brett Favre chooses on his own to come back to whatever organization will take him because of his desire for one more ring. Junior Seau is perfectly content in retirement, but will always return to the Patriots as long as they say they need him. Unfortunately, even though they went 11-5, New England just missed making the playoffs and the aging linebacker was left with another offseason to ponder his future, but going by his prior statement his future with New England was never really in doubt.
Now to all those "Patriot haters" out there, personal opinions aside, isn't this a good reason to root for the Patriots if only for one year? Junior Seau is a man and player whom everyone respects. He is a class act all the way and is completely dedicated to those who express a need for him. This man deserves his championship more then any player I can think of in recent history. Back for a 20th season in NFL, at the linebacker position no less, here comes Junior Seau... the player that everyone loves... on the team that everyone loves to hate. I know it's difficult, but he deserves it and deserves to retire in peace. And for those of you who continue to cling to "Spygate" as a reason to hate the New England Patriots just consider the fact that someone like Junior Seau refuses to play for anyone else and the respect that he holds for the organization, the players and Bill Belichick. Coming from him, well, that's got to mean something... right? This year lets root for Junior. Let him ride off appropriately into the sunset with the one championship he deserves more then any other.
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