CANTON, Ohio - Sydney Seau knows her wish couldn't come true, but she offered it up, anyway. Choking back tears during an emotional on-stage interview at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, where the great Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots linebacker was inducted Saturday night, Seau's daughter told a crowd of nearly 22,000 and a national television audience that she wished she could have seen her dad just one more time.
"You are a light, and I want nothing more than to see you come on stage, give the speech you were meant to give, give me a hug and tell me you love me," she said. "Dad, you gave us your time, your presence, your life, but most of all you gave us your heart."
Junior Seau, who enjoyed a 20-year career in which he went to 12 Pro Bowls and two Super Bowls and redefined the linebacker position, took his own life May 2, 2012, shooting himself in the chest. He was inducted posthumously into the Hall of Fame along with seven others, and was presented by Sydney Seau, who spoke in a video tribute and then during an interview with NFL Network reporter Steve Wyche.
Hall of Fame officials initially declined to have her speak at the ceremony, and though she did not speak at the podium, she offered some emotional words about her father's life and legacy. Not mentioning his suicide or the fact that Seau was late-diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease associated with repeated head trauma, Sydney provided a small window into what her father might have been feeling in the time leading up to his suicide. "I know at times it seems everything you accomplished in life wasn't enough," she said, "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."
The other honorees were former general managers Ron Wolf of the Packers and Bill Polian of the Bills and Colts; Chiefs guard Will Shields; Raiders wide receiver Tim Brown; Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff; 49ers and Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley; and Steelers running back Jerome Bettis.
"I know that his athleticism and talent were extraordinary enough to make it into the Hall," she said. "But it is his passion and heart that is truly legendary and is deserving of this tremendous honor. I would like to thank our family and everyone else for their support through this process. Dad, I love you and I miss you. Congratulations. You made it."
Seau was the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft, and finished with 56 1/2 sacks and 18 interceptions. He had 10 or more tackles in a game 64 times, and had a career-high 155 tackles and 5 1/2 sacks in 1994, the only year the Chargers made it to the Super Bowl. He later played in Super Bowl XLII for the Patriots, who lost to the Giants after winning their previous 18 games.
"I think my father would be completely overwhelmed and honored to be elected," Sydney Seau said. "I know this isn't my speech to give. This is his. He spent 20 years in the league, and he deserves this moment. All I can do is humbly attempt to thank the people in his career that made this induction possible."
Sydney paid tribute to Junior Seau's parents, who "taught him the true meaning of love, family, how to respect one's culture and selflessness. I know for a fact that he would say this honor is yours, along with the rest of the Seau family."
The Seau family has filed suit against the NFL, claiming the league failed to properly warn the former linebacker of the dangers of head trauma. She did not reference the lawsuit during her remarks, or during the video presentation.
"He's the first Samoan to make it into the Hall of Fame, and that is an accomplishment in itself," she said. "He proved that even a young Samoan boy from Oceanside can make his dreams a reality.
"I know he would thank every team, teammate, fan, the community of San Diego and the Chargers for the career of a lifetime. You guys are everything to him. Without you, he wouldn't have become the player that he was. I thank you, as well."