The general outpouring of affection in the wake of Seau’s death is a testament to the way he connected with people on and off the football field.
The former Dolphins cornerback said it was shocking and painful because of the infectious energy he lived his life with.
“It shouldn’t be like that, man,” Madison said. “There’s a lot of people that loved him to death. For me to be on the phone talking about that, I never thought this would be the person I would be talking about.”
Prior to joining the Dolphins in 2003, Seau had played primarily middle linebacker. The Dolphins already had Zach Thomas manning the middle, so he moved outside, forming a formidable tandem. For Thomas, it was an opportunity to play with an idol and someone who became a close friend.
“As a young linebacker, Junior was my hero growing up and once I had the opportunity meet him I saw that he was everything I hoped he would be and more,” Thomas said in a statement. “Getting the chance to play along side of Junior Seau, the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, made my dreams come true. I am absolutely devastated to hear this news. Today I lost my hero, my friend, my buddy.”
Aside from his tenacity, what separated Seau was his ability to snuff out a play before it got started. It always seemed that he was in the right place at the right time.
“When he tells you where the ball is going, if it’s a pass or run, you better believe that 99 percent of the time he’s correct because that’s what he was,” Madison said. “He studied. He understood.”
Former Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said he was “devastated” by the Seau’s sudden passing.
“Junior called everyone ‘buddy’ and treated them like he had known them forever,” Taylor said in a statement. “It would be easy for me to say he was a great friend and teammate, and a tremendous competitor, but that would be selling Junior short. Junior Seau was an individual of great honor and integrity, a leader of men and someone with a deep rooted passion for giving of himself to make the people, the community and especially the children around him better.”
Seau started 28 of the 30 games he played in for the Dolphins, recording 115 tackles. The numbers don’t really tell the whole story, though, because there was no question who the emotional leader of those Dolphins teams was.
“When you’re talking about getting someone fired up, there’s nobody else better than Junior Seau,” Madison said. “The head coach, it didn’t even matter. They didn’t have to say anything after that.
“And every single week, right before we got ready to go out, it didn’t matter even if he did not play, he was going to come in that locker room and get you fired up and ready to rock and roll.”
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