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Sunday, August 20, 2006

Oceanside a starting and stopping point for Seau

Oceanside a starting and stopping point for Seau

SAN DIEGO ---- It may be two decades since Junior Seau played football for Oceanside High, but he's still a Pirate at heart.

Seau, who officially retired Monday from the NFL after 16 seasons, never left his hometown city, taking every opportunity to come back and stay in touch with the Pirates.

He gave pregame talks before two Oceanside championship football games at Qualcomm Stadium. He delighted to take part in handing out championship rings to the players during an on-campus ceremony.

It's also why he opted to move back to Oceanside during his 13 years with the Chargers.

"I always knew I would buy a home in Oceanside,'' Seau said on the way to his retirement ceremony at the Chargers practice facility. "I always knew I had to come home no matter where I played in the NFL. From the very start it was important of me to stay in touch with Oceanside.''

Before getting to the ceremony, he spent time with about 60 players from his old Pop Warner teams ---- the Oceanside Pirates Mighty Mites and the Fighting Pirates Pee Wee team ---- as they worked at the Chargers' facility.

On the field, Seau, now 37, made a mark almost from his first day as a Pirate, not taking anything for granted.

Dave Barrett, a former defensive coordinator at Oceanside during a 28-year football coaching career with the Pirates, recalled arriving one day at 7 a.m. for the morning practice during the first week of two-a-days.

Seau was already there doing extra shuttle runs. And practice didn't actually start until 8:30.

"To me, his passion was off the chart even back then,'' said Barrett. "Junior was driven to be the very best and he was willing to pay the price. He was the best athlete on our team and he was the one out there doing even more than we were asking.''

One moment Seau would like to forget is his first game at Qualcomm Stadium as a senior in 1986.

Oceanside battered teams to reach the CIF 2A San Diego Section championship game only to be blasted 41-7 by Lincoln.

"Don't really remember that one,'' said Seau, winking. "Patrick Rowe and the boys really got us.''

Not many teams did take it to the Pirates when Seau was there.

"Junior is the only player San Pasqual has ever run away from,'' said San Pasqual coach Mike Dolan, who became the Eagles' head coach in 1986, Seau's senior year at Oceanside. "We've been able to trap really good guys from every teams and gotten them on the ground. We never got Junior on the ground, and we never saw anyone on film get him on the ground.

"We knew ahead of time we weren't going to the side of the field where he was. We didn't need to even try. We didn't tell the kids we were afraid of him. We told them we were going to be more of a right-handed team that night.''

In the 1986 encounter with Seau, who was playing the right outside linebacker post, Dolan's Eagles managed to get to halftime trailing just 7-0.

Thinking his team still had a chance to pull off the upset, Dolan knew all was lost when he saw the one adjustment the Pirates' made at halftime was to move Seau to middle linebacker.

Oceanside wound up winning that game 20-6, and Seau caught a 25-yard TD pass from quarterback Rocky Aukuso.

"Oceanside has had guys as physical as Junior, but no one could run and deliver a blow on a ball carrier than him,'' said Dolan. "Junior is a once-in-a-lifetime player for me, and I've been coaching since 1971. Count me as one of the guys that was ecstatic the day he graduated from Oceanside.''

As good as the 6-foot-5, 220-pound Seau was at linebacker as a senior, he also caught 66 passes as a tight end ---- second in North County ---- for 963 yards and 11 TDs.

Seau, who played quarterback, completing 29-of-87 passes for 420 yards and four TDs as a junior, was named the CIF defensive player of the year and then added on the CIF player of the year tag after leading Oceanside to the CIF 2A title in basketball. The Pirates beat El Camino 53-51 in the '87 finals.

"Even though he was the man at Oceanside,'' Barrett said, "he was driven to always be more than that.''

No other San Diego County athlete in the 47-year history of the CIF San Diego Section has ever been the player of the year in football and basketball in the same season.

"What motivated me to go out there every day was to win,'' said Seau. "You can't put in 50 cents and expect to get $5 back. It doesn't work that way. I wanted to be the best linebacker ever. Ever. I wanted to make more money than ever. Ever.

"I wanted to take San Diego to a Super Bowl every year. I did some of those thing along the way.''

And all of it started in Oceanside.

Contact staff writer Terry Monahan at (760) 739-6648 or

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