Hall of Fame class of 2015 remembers Junior Seau


CANTON, Ohio -- Junior Seau can't be here, but his memory burns through the archways and corridors of the Hall of Fame.

We learned that firsthand on Friday, as Seau's peers from the class of 2015 gushed over the former Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker who will be inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame on Saturday night.

Seau transformed his position at the NFL level, but the 12-time Pro Bowler drew even greater praise on Friday for the kind of person he was away from the game. Beloved equally by teammates and those he faced on Sunday, Seau remains as hall-worthy as they come.

Here's what this year's class had to say about Junior Seau:

Charles Haley, pass rusher:

San Francisco 49ers (1986-1991; 1998-99), Dallas Cowboys (1992-96)

"I got to meet Junior a few times at the Pro Bowl, man. He was a fun-loving guy. He was wide open like us, man. We were all young guys going, and he was a good man. I loved Junior, he was just a phenomenal athlete. My god. Hey, he could run faster than anybody I ever seen before. Him and Thurman Thomas, they used to race each other. I was like, wow, because I used to think I was fast until I met those guys."

Bill Polian:

Former Bills, Panthers and Colts general manager

"Wooh! Well, on the one hand, you had to account for him on every single play. If you didn't, he would wreck the play -- and maybe hurt somebody, because he was such an incredibly talented athlete and such a powerful and explosive guy. So that's Point One. Point Two, you had to make sure not only did you account for him, but you did something to affect his ability to diagnose (the play) very quickly. Because he had an incredible ability to diagnose. ... And if you didn't give him something that slowed him down a little bit, maybe the people you had accounting for him were going to get beat. In fact, not maybe, most of the time they would be.

"There were very few people who could handle him one-on-one and sometimes not even two-on-one. He was a guy who changed the game because of his ability, changed the game because of his instincts and then changed the game because he had an uncanny knack for being where the ball was. Many times you would say, 'How in the heck did he get there? What did he see that took him there?' Nobody ever knew except Junior.' That's the toughest guy to prepare for."

Will Shields, guard:

Kansas City Chiefs (1993-2006)

"Junior's tenacity was unbelievable. He would actually mess up your total offense. The way he played and different things, he (looked so) undisciplined, but he just knew where he was going to go and make your life a living hell. That's what we loved about it ... the simple fact that it was going to be a battle.

"He's a guy you can actually take, block, knock down and he'd still get up, catch a tipped pass and try to take it for a touchdown, all on the same play. That's one of those things about him ... you had to make sure that you hustled and finished and everything else -- and you had to have him accountable for wherever he was. Then off the field, his levity was unbelievable. I mean, he's always had somebody cracking a joke, he's always fun. ... He brought your spirit up whether you were playing against him or with him in the Pro Bowl."

Tim Brown, wide receiver:

Los Angeles/Oakland Raiders (1988-2003), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2004)

"I loved playing against Junior because he brought out the best in you. You knew when you played against Junior, you would have to play your best game.

"There were times toward the end of his career with the Chargers, I was doing some really good work in the slot. So, they decided they were going to put Junior on me in the slot. So I was like, 'Well, let's go in motion.' He went in motion with me. We tried to do all kinds of crazy things, but his job was, first couple steps, to redirect me. And, you know, I was 6-foot, 195 or 200 -- and he's 245 and strong as an ox. If he got his hands on me, it was over. So I was like, 'Junior, dude, I thought we were boys, man! Come on, man!' He's like, 'T.B., we got four people looking at you. I'm just trying to redirect.'

"It was so much fun playing against him and working with him off the field with his charities and things of that nature. It was just an incredible, incredible time for everybody who knew him."

Jerome Bettis, running back:

Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams (1993-95), Pittsburgh Steelers (1996-2005)

"I just think about the tremendous football player that he was. His ability to diagnose plays. I mean, he always found his way in that A-gap. He had the hands flailing, he was ready to go. That's the image I see of him. The other image I see of him -- is as a great person. Junior is one of those guys, when you saw him (he'd be like): 'Hey, buddy!' He had a ton of energy and he loved just having fun with the guys. And even if you weren't his teammate, in the offseason you were a friend. During the season? Not so much. ... He was just a great guy and a great person."

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