Scores of NFL players have come forward in the hours since Junior Seau died to share their memories of playing with or against Seau, and those memories serve as a stark reminder that Seau — no matter the personal demons that led him to commit suicide — was one of the most respected and beloved players in football.
But the most moving memory of Seau may have been offered by a player who was never Seau’s teammate, didn’t claim to know him well and didn’t make it to the NFL until Seau had already retired: Saints backup center Eric Olsen.
It’s not clear that Seau even knew who Olsen was, but that’s what makes the memory Olsen shared so special: People who had been around Seau said he had the ability to make everyone he encountered feel better about themselves, and that’s what Seau did for Olsen, who shared a great memory of the time he met Seau when Olsen was an adolescent and Seau was a star.
“Wow this is a tough one,” Olsen wrote on his Twitter account when he heard about Seau’s death. “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 anyone 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 to 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.”
Those who knew him well, those like Olsen who met him briefly and those who only saw him on TV are joined in grief today for a good man whose life came to a shocking end much too soon.