Junior Seau's apparent suicide has left his fans shocked and heartbroken. And Junior had many fans. In the wake of his death Wednesday, stories have surfaced from folks who were forever changed by Seau's compassion and charisma.
Albert Flores Jr., a U.S. Marine Corps captain, sent in his Seau moment to sports blog Deadspin. Flores was in a Southern California bar one evening. Just a few folks in the bar, and one happened to be Junior Seau and a couple of his relatives.
According to Flores' letter to Deadspin, Seau talked with Flores for several hours about the military and his tremendous respect for people in the armed forces. Eventually the talk shifted to music, and Seau "began to brag" about his skill with the ukulele. Flores "called him on it," and Seau went out to his car, brought back his instrument, and played "Brown-Eyed Girl" to a stunned bar.
In Flores' words:
"One of the most ferocious tacklers in the history of football was playing a ukulele in an empty bar at 11:00 p.m. and serenading the few that remained. He then started to play some more and his cousin and uncle joined in the chorus. They were a harmonic family full of melodies ... and they were good — real good. ... I hope this story will aid in an attempt to remember not only a linebacker but a fun, loving person as well."
Eric Olsen, an offensive guard for the New Orleans Saints, took to Twitter after Seau's death. Like Flores' recollection, Olsen's anecdote illustrates Seau's huge heart and sense of humor.
"When I was a frosh in HS Junior Seau worked the Jay Fiedler Football camp and at the end of one of the days he challenged any1 to a 1 on 1. Being one of the 'big' kids, I was volunteered by my buddies and went up in front of the whole camp to face this monster of a man. Shaking in my cleats, he gave me a wink before a coach gave the cadence. He let me pancake him. And he sold it too. I can't even tell you how good I felt at that moment; it changed me forever.
"The whole camp cheered for me, a chubby kid that didn't know if he even liked football. From then on I was addicted. All thanks 2 this 10 time all-pro that felt like making some snot-nosed kid's day. Doesn't seem like much but it meant a lot to me. Sorry for the essay just had to share. RIP Junior I'll never forget what you did for me."
Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports wrote about his first encounter with No. 55. It was a cold day in Pittsburgh and Seau was wearing board shorts. Silver asked, "How many pairs of pants do you own?"
Seau stopped and turned to face me. He smiled broadly. "One pair, jeans," he said. "One pair, slacks. Some sweats that someone sent me for free."
He paused. That was it?
"That's it," he said, satisfied, and I was pretty much the happiest Californian in sports journalism history. The quote didn't make the magazine, but it made me an unabashed Seau devotee for life.
Other memories abound in article comments and on Twitter. One person wrote, "I knew Jr. a little through the resort I worked at , and he was a member! I will never forget the first time I met him. He had that beautiful smile on his face and said 'Hi, I'm Jr., what's your name?' He was always so nice and pleasant to talk to! I will miss him dearly! I pray for his mom and family."
[Photos: NFL legend Junior Seau dead]
One of the most heartbreaking recollections comes from a message board dedicated to Seau's memory...
I volunteered to help with his foundations event where the recognize a local sports hero. That year it was Jimmie Johnson. They auctioned off goods to raise money for the charity with Junior as the auctioneer. ...
At the end, us lowely volunteers were in the kitchen, getting a sandwich meal they had packed for us after cleaning, and in walked Junior with a double armful of live orchids. They had been the centerpieces on the tables at the auction.
I thought everyone had left but us. He goes to every lady in the room and gives her one and thanks her for volunteering. He shakes all the guys hands and smiles and talks for second, calling everyone "Buddy". I was actually the last guy he stopped at, being the closest to the door, and he shook my hand and thanked me. If you never met him, he was a stunningly immense human being, like a mountain of muscle. He saw my wedding ring and gave me the last orchid and said:
"This is for your wife. Tell her it's from Junior Seau and that her husband did a good thing today. She probably wonders what your doing out this late. Thanks, Buddy."
Other popular content on the Yahoo! network:
• Dan Wetzel: New Orleans Saints get off relatively lightly with player bounty suspensions
• Mark Walter, Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten may or may not be strong owners for Dodgers
• Y! Health: Medical tests all men should have