Several Chargers finally pulled Seau to the sideline to calm him down.
"The guy's a buzz saw," says Raider defensive end Howie Long, a teammate of Seau's at the 1993 Pro Bowl. "His rpm's are on redline all the time, but mentally he's under control, and that's unusual for a young player."
His wealth—Seau will earn $650,000 this year—and success have changed the 24-year-old very little. While he bought his family a house and a car and he lives comfortably in Mount Helix with his wife, Gina, and newborn daughter, he still prefers to dress in T-shirt, shorts, sandals and a baseball cap with the bill turned up. "Just give me a shack on the beach and a couple of tuna fish sandwiches, and I'm happy," he says. On the way home from an autograph session a few months ago, the hired limousine in which he was riding had a flat tire. Seau nonchalantly knelt on the shoulder of the freeway and changed it.
"The driver started taking off his jacket, but Junior said, 'That's O.K., I've got it,' " recalls Bobby Grillo, Seau's business partner in their new apparel company, Say Ow Gear. "I was afraid the jack would fall on him or some hoods would see a limo in distress, pull over and stick us up. But Junior slides out, and boom, it's done."
Seau is also the first to acknowledge a helping hand from others. On Super Bowl Sunday, three weeks after the Chargers' 31-0 second-round playoff loss to the Miami Dolphins. Seau purchased a full-page ad for $14,000 in the San Diego Union-Tribune to thank the team's fans. Seau ordered up a collage of photos of Charger fans, accompanied by these words: TO THE FANS OF SAN DIEGO. I THANK YOU FOR A WONDERFUL YEAR. JUNIOR SEAU AND FAMILY.
Two years ago he started the Junior Seau Foundation, he says, "to promote the protection of children by supporting child-abuse prevention efforts, drug and alcohol awareness and anti-juvenile delinquency programs." The foundation's major fund-raiser, a celebrity golf tournament in May, brought in $60,000. Seau was involved in every aspect of the event, from designing, writing and proofreading the brochure to holding more than 40 meetings with local business leaders to make sponsorship pitches to lining up 21 Pro Bowlers to participate.
In March, within days after a gang member was gunned down in a shopping mall in Chula Vista, a community south of San Diego, Seau visited the mall. Standing in front of hundreds of teenagers and their families, he tried to impress upon the parents that love begins in the home, and he warned the kids that gangs are a dead end. Look forward in life, he told them, because "I'm living proof that you can make it out of the ghetto."
Says Seau, "Too many athletes are living in a tiny window. They have no vision for themselves—what they can be outside of football and what they can mean to a community. They just don't know any better. My hopes and dreams are unlimited."
Yet there are times when Seau puts so much pressure on himself that it becomes overwhelming. In a game against the Kansas City Chiefs in November, with the Chargers ahead 14-13 and about two minutes remaining, Chief quarterback Dave Krieg hit wide receiver Willie Davis on a short dump pass over the outstretched arms of Seau, which Davis broke for a 25-yard gain. Four plays later Nick Lowery kicked a 36-yard field goal to win the game.
When Gina greeted Seau at the San Diego airport, she says, "he was really quiet and close to tears. He blamed himself for the loss." Up all night, Seau replayed the game in his head. "He kept saying, 'I should have done this.' 'If only I had done that,' " Gina says. "I couldn't get him to snap out of it."