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Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Junior Seau also tells a Kitsap County audience that he probably will officially retire soon

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Kaylen Kinney | Kitsap Sun

Linebacker Junior Seau, a 12-time Pro Bowler with the Chargers and the Dolphins, told a Kitsap County audience Saturday that he probably will formally retire within the next few weeks.

NFL Great Touts Value of Hard Work

  • Junior Seau also tells a Kitsap County audience that he probably will officially retire soon.
  • By Jeff Graham, For the Kitsap Sun
    July 9, 2006

    Bremerton

    "To be able to do great things in life, you have to work."

    Those words, spoken by NFL linebacker Junior Seau, resonated in the minds of roughly 100 people who gathered for a fund-raising luncheon Saturday afternoon at the Harborside Conference Center in Bremerton.

    Players and coaches from six area high schools — Bremerton, North Kitsap, Central Kitsap, South Kitsap, Olympic and Klahowya — attended the three-hour event organized by Russ Robison, president of Robison Plumbing in Bremerton and a regular contributor to the Junior Seau Foundation.

    Seau served as Saturday’s featured speaker. The 16-year NFL veteran did not disappoint.

    Taking to the podium following passionate speeches by Bremerton Mayor Cary Bozeman and former Washington State University director of medicine Mark Smaha, Seau challenged the young players in attendance to strive to reach their goals.

    "I have failed more than I’ve succeeded in my life," said Seau, who played 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers from 1990-2002 and three seasons with the Miami Dolphins from 2003-05. "The difference is I have never quit."

    Seau did have his opportunity.

    Seau said he was a backup at the University of Southern California all the way through his senior year, until injuries forced him into the Trojans’ starting lineup. He finished the 1989 season with 19 sacks, earning All-American status despite starting just five games.

    The next June, the Chargers picked Seau in the first round of the 1990 NFL Draft.

    Sixteen years, 12 Pro Bowl appearances and 1,566 tackles later, Seau credits hard work for prolonging his career.

    "If you don’t work, you are going to fail," he said.

    After his address, Seau fielded several questions from the audience on subjects ranging from Terrell Owens to Ryan Leaf to life after football.

    Regarding the latter, Seau said he plans to hold a press conference within the next two weeks announcing his likely retirement. With the end of his career on the field drawing near, Seau sounded eager to continue his efforts in charity.

    "I’m blessed to be where I am," Seau said. "I’ve got a great opportunity to do some great things because of the game of football."

    Bremerton High football coach Nate Gillam, who joined five of his players at the luncheon, said he was inspired by Seau’s story.

    "He’s had to work for everything he’s had and that’s awesome," Gillam said. "He’s a guy who, physically, may not be the prototypical NFL guy, but he got to where he is and played for 16 years in the NFL because he worked his butt off."

    Smaha shared an inside look at the 1970 plane crash involving Marshall University’s football team. The crash took the lives of 75 players, coaches, athletic personnel and boosters.

    One of the team’s assistant athletic trainers at the time, Smaha was originally scheduled to be on the plane, but opted out of the trip at the last minute.

    "I spent three days identifying bodies at the airport and three weeks attending funerals," Smaha said. "It changed my life forever."

    Having recently lost a brother to a heart attack and revealing that his wife is currently battling cancer, Smaha urged crowd members to make their lives matter.

    "You only get one chance — today," Smaha said. "Make the very best of it."

    South Kitsap senior Nick Taylor heard Saturday’s messages loud and clear.

    "It is good to hear I’m doing some of the right things," Taylor said.

    Central Kitsap coach Mark Keel, who played six seasons in the NFL, brought about 20 players to the event. He hopes the fundraiser will help boost support of football in the county.

    "I think football can be big here," Keel said. "When you compare it to other sports like basketball and soccer and baseball and some of the other sports they’ve got going over here, it’s time for football to get big."

    Donors for Saturday’s fund-raising event included Reid Real Estate, Silverdale Realty and West Sound Bank. Proceeds from the event will go toward the six high school football programs represented at the event, as well as the Boys and Girls Club of Kitsap County.

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