SDUT: Sad Homecoming

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FU Spanos and Dundon
Staff member
Jun 20, 2005
Chula Vista, CA

Ailing Achilles' keeps frustrated Seau on sideline

December 9, 2005

Junior Seau circled this weekend on his mental calendar eight months ago. It was the carrot that helped him rise before the sun. It was the motivation that helped him punch the gas pedal when his body was telling him to hit the brakes during offseason workouts.

He looked forward to playing one more game before his hometown fans, who saw him earn 12 Pro Bowl berths in 13 seasons with the Chargers. But for the second time in the three seasons since he was traded to Miami, Seau won't get a chance to perform in the stadium he used to call home.

Restaurants on the Run
This year it's a season-ending Achilles' injury. Two seasons ago it was the wildfires that forced the Chargers to move their Monday night game against the Dolphins to Tempe, Ariz.

Seau, who returned to San Diego two weeks ago after being placed on injured reserve, plans to attend Sunday's game. But like the rest of the sellout crowd at Qualcomm Stadium, he'll be a spectator instead of a participant.

"To tell you the truth, it's going to be hard going to the game knowing that I had a chance to play in front of the hometown fans," Seau, 36, said yesterday. "It was something I looked forward to while going through training camp and the preseason. Coming home to San Diego is something I always look forward to. It was something I dreamed about.

"It would have been fun playing in front of family and friends and the fans. Obviously, this is my home; it's tough for me to even think about not playing. But if I didn't go it would be for selfish reasons. I'll be there to support the Miami Dolphins, but my mind and spirit will be with the other sideline as well."

Seau said he plans to spend the first half on the Dolphins sideline before making his way to a luxury box, where he will be surrounded by family and friends. When he arrived in town two years ago for the Monday night game against the Chargers, the situation could not have been more sobering.

It was midafternoon, but the sky was black because of smoke from the largest wildfire in state history, a far-reaching inferno that burned 422 square miles and destroyed at least 2,400 homes.

"When we came off the plane, there were ashes in the air," he said. "Fortunately, I'm not missing the game because of something as drastic and unfortunate as that."

Seau also found a silver lining in that his injury will not require offseason surgery, as was the case a year ago when he underwent procedures to repair tears in his pectoral and biceps.

"I'm looking forward to coming back and playing next year," said Seau, who has a year remaining on his contract. "I don't know if it'll be in Miami or elsewhere, but the best thing for me is that I know how I played when I was in there, and I know there's not a guy out there that can block me still. I was playing on one leg for six weeks. I look forward to playing again on two legs."

Despite no longer playing in San Diego, Seau remains a central figure in town. His home is here, as is his foundation, which could turn out to be his lasting legacy.

According to Director Bette Hoffman, the Junior Seau Foundation last year provided $500,000 to needy San Diego County youngsters through organizations such as the Oceanside Boys & Girls Club; the Vista Hill Foundation for Parent Care/Fathers in Recovery; Voices for Children; and San Diego Family Justice Center for Camp Hope.

At $600,000, the foundation's endowment has blossomed to the point that it can continue assisting San Diego's youths in perpetuity, according to Hoffman.

It's a thought that makes Seau smile through the disappointment of not being able to play Sunday.