By Tom Blair
Despite his move to Miami last year, Junior Seau’s Chargers jersey remained among the most popular worn by fans here during 2003. He’s a Dolphin now but still may be San Diegans’ favorite Charger. Of the many public relations disasters perpetrated by Chargers management in recent years, among the greatest was the decision to drop Seau after the 2002 season. The 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker feels no bitterness; he says he’s just concentrating on his career in Miami. Still, when he talks about the Chargers today, he occasionally lapses into the pronoun “we.”
Tom Blair: The last time I saw you was Thanksgiving, when the Dolphins beat the Cowboys on national TV. That game put your team in great shape for a run at the playoffs. But you gave your fans here a bit of a start when you went out with an injury on a great tackle.
Junior Seau: Yeah. That was a great win for us. That made us 8 and 4, and we knew we’d make the playoffs. I did get my shoulder caught up in the turf on that tackle, and I was landed on. But we take care of those things in the locker room.
TB: So you make the playoffs for the first time in almost a decade, but not with the team you played your heart out for during 14 seasons.
JS: Well, it’s definitely a rewarding thing, in terms of coming to Miami and helping them get to the playoffs. The sad thing is I have guys in the locker room in San Diego I still care a lot about and I feel for.
TB: You almost had a chance to play one game back in San Diego this season. And then the firestorm struck, and the Dolphins-Chargers game was played in Arizona. And there was no homecoming for Junior.
JS: We actually landed in San Diego, and when I saw ashes flying around I knew it was over. I think a lot of the guys who played that game in Arizona—especially the guys from San Diego—I know our minds and hearts were somewhere else.
TB: Obviously, you followed your old team during the 2003 season. Do you think their dismal performance was inevitable—a lack of talent?
JS: I could sit back and look from outside in, but only they know what could have made a difference. I hope what happens next is not too many changes. Because when I was there, there were just so many changes. Hopefully they can take the good out of the bad and build on that.
TB: You feel some empathy for your old teammates?
JS: I’ve been through a 1-and-15 season, and that was tough. But hopefully they’ll be able to persevere.
TB: What’s the best thing about Miami?
Seau: The Miami family. They really embrace the sport of football here, and they care so much there’s pressure on us to get where we need to go. And we all have one thing in common: that hardware we want on our fingers.
TB: The elusive Super Bowl ring. Okay, what’s the worst thing about Miami?
Seau: It’s all the way across the country from my hometown. The loss of what’s been familiar to me—my daily duties, circle of friends, family members.
TB: You’re a superstar in San Diego. Do the fans treat you differently in Miami?
Seau: The difference is they are just big sports fans here. The Miami Dolphins are first on the mind when it comes to sports. Now, obviously, we won the World Series here—and I say “we” ’cause I’ve been in Miami for eight months. Sports is just definitely top of the mind here.
TB: Will there be a Seau’s, The Restaurant in South Beach?
JS: There will if we win a Super Bowl.
TB: Your Junior Seau Foundation keeps you in touch with San Diego. After the arduous trip to the Phoenix game, you flew back to San Diego to emcee your big luncheon here. Why is the foundation so important to you?
JS: My vision is to have it build to the point where it will be an entity on its own. It’s a vehicle for the San Diego community to funnel money through to help kids. And all the money raised stays in San Diego.
TB: What’s your relationship, if any, with the Spanos family? Any bitterness about being dropped after so many seasons?
JS: I try not to get into the family and how they run their business. I was fortunate enough that they took me in, allowed me to be supported by the fans of the city for 14 years, and I appreciate that. And have no bad feelings. There’s a lot being thrown out lately about the Spanoses, and probably will be for the future. But I really can’t say anything negative about what they’ve done for me.
TB: What do you think about the Chargers’ handling of the stadium issue? Do you think the Spanoses want to move the team?
JS: I just know we need a team in San Diego. We do. It’ll be a shame if we don’t have a team. It’s the best place to live, number one. I tell you, any organization would love to be in the community of San Diego. Not only for what it brings demographically, but for the people who live there and love the city.
TB: How many years do you figure you have left in the NFL?
JS: I’m planning to play two more years.
TB: And then what? Come home to San Diego?
JS: And then come home to San Diego. Hopefully we can get our hardware before then, and I’ll think about it after that.
TB: Maybe we’ll still have a football team for you to watch when you get here.
Seau: I’ll probably coach it myself.