In tribute to the accomplishments of linebacker Junior Seau, the most decorated defensive player in team history, Chargers President Dean Spanos announced Friday the team will formally retire the No. 55 jersey in a halftime ceremony during the Chargers' regular-season home opener against the Tennessee Titans on Sept. 16.
The No. 55, made famous by Seau, joins No. 19 (Lance Alworth) and No. 14 (Dan Fouts) as the only three retired numbers in the team's 53-year history. Fouts' number was retired in 1988 and Alworth's was retired in 2005.
"Junior's accomplishments on the field speak for themselves," Spanos said. "His play on the field combined with his leadership and charisma became the face of this team for more than a decade. I can't think of anyone more deserving of this honor."
The game against the Titans on Sept. 16 will be dedicated in Seau's honor. In addition, the team will wear a decal bearing No. 55 on their helmets during that game while a giant No. 55 banner will be unveiled, hung in the Qualcomm Stadium light ring and flown at every future home game.
Seau was a leader and the heart and soul of the Chargers from 1990-02. His stellar playing career was highlighted by 12 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances, the most by any player in Chargers history and tied for the third-longest streak ever. Seau was chosen as one of the all-time 50 greatest Chargers in 2009, inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame in 2011, and seemingly is a lock to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2015.
Seau's NFL statistics are beyond Hall of Fame worthy. He appeared in 268 regular-season games, including 200 as a Charger, tied for second all-time in team annals. This total ranks second in NFL history among players whose primary position was linebacker (Clay Mattews, 278). During his stellar 20-year career, Seau racked up 1,524 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions. He was the team leader in tackles in eight of his 13 seasons in San Diego, averaging 116 tackles a year. Seau led the Chargers in tackles in 84 of the 200 games he played for San Diego and he recorded 10 or more tackles 47 times.
Seau's greatness as a player on the field was equaled only by his leadership and generosity in the community. He was a loving father, an astute businessman and a community leader. He established the Junior Seau Foundation in 1992 to raise money and resources for programs that inspire young people to face life's challenges with enthusiasm, hope and dignity. The Foundation's missinon: "to educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentory educational programs." He oversaw all the efforts of the Foundation and through his work awarded hundreds of scholarships to college-bound students throughout the San Diego region. Every December, he led the holiday charge, taking several hundred underprivileged kids on a shopping spree to buy gifts for friends and family through the "Shop with a Jock" program.
As a testament to the contributions he made to enrich young lives in San Diego and around the country, Seau and his foundation were presented at the White House by President George W. Bush with the "Volunteer Service Award" as part of the Asian Pacific Heritage Month celebration in May of 2005. Other honors bestowed upon Seau for his charitable efforts include: National Boys and Girls Clubs Hall of Fame (1999); San Diego Hall of Champions Professional Star of the Year (1992); NFL United Way representative (San Diego Chargers: 1992 and 1999); A Magazine: One of 100 most influential Asian Americans (1990s); the JB Award, which recognizes NFL players for dedicatoin to building better families and stronger communities (2005); Sporting News Miami Dolphins Good Guy (2004); and spokesman for the Natoinal Beer Wholesalers Association, appearing on national PSAs to curb underage drinking and stop illegal alcohol consumption among youth. He received the 2003 Spirit of San Diego Award from the San Diego Chamber of Commerce for community commitment and leadership.
Perhaps the most memorable year of Seau's career came in 1994 when he led the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX against the San Francisco 49ers and was selected as the True Value NFL Man of the Year for his leadership and contributions off the field. Among his many honors, Seau was named the Chargers' Most Valuable Player a team-record six times (1993, 1997-2001) and the Defensive Player of the Year twice (1998-99). He also was voted the NFL Alumni Association's Linebacker of the Year. He was a first-team All-Pro pick by the Associated Press six times during his career (1992-94, 1996, 1998, 2000) and was a second-team selection on two occasions (1995, 1999). He also received the Miami Dolphins' Don Shula Leadership Award following the 2003-04 seasons.
Junior opened SEAU's the Restaurant in 1996, one of San Diego's most popular sports-themed restaurants. Each year on Thanksgiving Day, the resturant opens its doors to feed 600 residents of homeless shelters, victims of domestic violence, military families and familys from local Boys & Girls Clubs.