The daughter of the late San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau said she would have honored her father’s “legendary heart” if she had been allowed to speak at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame’s rules prohibit speeches on behalf of deceased enshrinees. Seau’s daughter Sydney was interviewed for slightly more than three minutes on the ESPN telecast of Saturday’s ceremony in Canton, Ohio.

However, The New York Times published the speech the younger Seau told the paper she would have given if she had been allowed to.

“Your Junior Seau, your No. 55 and your buddy, was also my father,” Sydney Seau said. “And although I didn’t know every aspect of his life, I did know one particular part very well.

“His athleticism and talent made him extraordinary enough to make it into the Hall, but it is his passion and heart that make him truly legendary and deserving of this tremendous honor. Tonight, I would like to honor him and his legendary heart.”

The speech went on to praise Junior Seau’s passion and love; how his “selflessness and ability to love unconditionally were instilled in him by his family;” and how “all his success is a direct reflection of the Oceanside community and family that raised him and molded him into the man he became.”

The speech also includes Seau acknowledging that she misses her father’s singing and “his huge mangled hands strumming on his uke, playing the only five chords he knew, to the hundreds of songs he would attempt to sing off- key.”

Sydney Seau said what she remembered most about her father was “the way he made me feel.”

“I can honestly say that he made me feel like I was the most important person in the world,” said Seau, who turned 22 on Friday.

“The reason why I think he wanted me to present him is because I didn’t know his athletic career but I did know his heart, and I’m blessed to say that I felt his love for 18 beautiful years, and I still feel it to this day.”

Sydney Seau concluded the speech by saying, “There’s nothing I want more than to see you walk up on stage, give me a hug and tell me that you love me one last time, but that isn’t our reality.

“You would always say you loved me, and even after I would respond and say I loved you, too, you would look me in the eyes and say, ‘I love you; do you hear me?’

“Well, after this speech, I hope you can hear us when we say that we love you, and I hope that this induction can exemplify the fact that you were more than just Junior Seau — you were a light, and you’re still mine.

“This is your speech, your moment and your honor, and to say that I’m the most proud daughter on Earth would be an understatement. Congratulations, Dad; you made it.”

In the interview broadcast during the ceremony, Sydney Seau said her “father would be completely overwhelmed and honored to be inducted into a class with the most elite athletes and professionals” and would first “thank the seven buddies out on stage with him.”

The enshrinement class also consisted of:

  • Jerome Bettis, a running back with the Los Angeles-St. Louis Rams and Pittsburgh Steelers from 1993-2005
  • Tim Brown, a receiver with the Los Angeles-Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1988-2004
  • Charles Haley, a defensive end-linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers and Dallas Cowboys from 1986-1989
  • Will Shields, a guard with the Kansas City Chiefs from 1993-2006
  • Mick Tingelhoff, a Minnesota Vikings center from 1962-78
  • Former NFL executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf

Seau died at the age of 43 on May 2, 2012, of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his Oceanside home.

He was drafted by the Chargers with the fifth overall pick of the 1990 NFL draft and spent the first 13 of his 20 NFL seasons with the team.

Seau was selected for 12 consecutive Pro Bowls, matching the third- longest overall Pro Bowl streak and longest by a Charger. He completed his NFL career by playing for the Miami Dolphins from 2003-2005 and New England Patriots from 2006-2009.

Sydney Seau said if her father were alive to give an induction speech, he would first thank his parents, Tiaina Seau Sr. and Luisa, who were in the audience.

“They were everything to him,” Seau said. “They taught him the true meaning of love, family, how to present one’s self, how to respect one’s culture and selflessness. He would say this honor is yours, along with the rest of our Seau family.”

Junior Seau would also have thanked “every team, teammate, fan, the community of San Diego and the Chargers for a career of a lifetime,” she said. “You guys are everything to him. Without you, he wouldn’t have become the player that he was.”

Sydney Seau noted her father was the first Polynesian and Samoan to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

“He is proof that even a young Samoan boy from Oceanside can make his dreams a reality,” she said.

Sydney Seau said one of her father’s greatest accomplishments in her mind “was being able to give back to the community through the Junior Seau Foundation.”

“That is where his true legacy lies… giving back to the community that gave him everything,” Sydney Seau said.

The foundation supports a variety of programs aiding youths.

Sydney Seau concluded the interview by saying, “Dad, you gave us your time, your presence and your love, but most of all, you gave us your heart.

“I know at times, it seemed as if everything you accomplished in life wasn’t enough, but today and every day since you held me in your arms for the first time, you were more than just enough, you were everything.”

— City News Service

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Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.