It has been an especially difficult beginning to the year for the Chargers family, as we continue to mourn the losses of several influential figures within the organization. Scroll below to hear from former players, coaches and colleagues, as they remember and celebrate the lives and legacies of Marty Schottenheimer, Vincent Jackson, Doug "Moosie" Wilkerson, Wayne Nunnely, Ron Botchan and Steve Hendrickson.
Former head coach Marty Schottenheimer passed away on February 8, 2021 at the age of 77.
"Marty was a tremendous leader of men and a man of great principle - the love and admiration his former players have for him to this day speak volumes," said Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "You couldn't outwork him. You couldn't out-prepare him. And you certainly always knew exactly where you stood with him.
"I am grateful that he was our head coach for five seasons, and I am even more fortunate to have been able to call him a friend. Facing Alzheimer's disease, Marty's incredible wife, Pat, said that he'd approach the diagnosis the same way he coached, 'full throttle.' Marty was big on practicing what he preached. And over the last few years, like so many of his players before him, Marty always found a way. He was, in so many ways, the ultimate competitor.
"Our deepest condolences and heartfelt prayers go out to Pat, their children Kristen and Brian, and all of the Schottenheimer grandchildren Marty loved so much."
LaDainian Tomlinson on Marty Schottenheimer
"The best coach I ever had. I never went into a game with Marty as a coach feeling like I wasn't fully prepared to win. He really wanted you to understand every detail of the game plan.
I considered him a true All-American man. He was a great father figure and I was fortunate that my wife and I got to know he and Pat beyond the typical player and coach relationship.
He was a well-rounded human being. He cared more about the man than the athlete. I will remember him more for the life lessons that he taught me."
Philip Rivers on Marty Schottenheimer
"Coach Schottenheimer got the attention of a room and had a way of delivering the message he wanted received in a way only he could. I am very thankful I got to play for him my first 3 seasons in the NFL.
Old school, very compassionate, very matter of fact , and just one heck of a coach. I can hear him now, 'One play at a time!!!'
Thoughts and Prayers for Mrs. Pat and Coach B. Schotti and the whole family."
Take a look back at Marty Schottenheimer's time as the head coach of the Chargers.
Antonio Gates on Marty Schottenheimer
"Marty was a huge part of my personal success and the team's as a whole. His message to us was a simple one: be accountable and play tough … which affectionately became known as 'Marty Ball.'
That mantra motivated me and my teammates to go out there and give it our all each and every play. He stood firmly on his morals and values and it showed on and off the field.
He will forever be remembered as a big part of my growth as an NFL player. Rest in Peace, Coach."
Nick Hardwick on Marty Schottenheimer
"The first time I heard his voice was on draft night in 2004. The phone rang...'Nick, this is Coach Schottenheimer. Congratulations son, you're going to be a San Diego Charger!'
Coming in to the team as a young, wild, brash kid, who thought he had it all figured out...Marty was exactly what I needed my first NFL coach to be.
As a coach, he was as direct, disciplined, and fierce as they came. Yet, at times he showed us a real tenderness and vulnerability that drew his players in. We loved him.
He may never have won a Super Bowl during his coaching career. Unfortunately, not every great coach gets to do that. But, great coaches always get the best from their teams. Marty sure did get the best out of us!
I'll never think about Marty Schottenheimer without at first thinking about his simple wisdom that I heard countless times on the practice and game field, and I still implement every day of my life...
'ONE PLAY AT A TIME, MEN! ONE PLAY AT A TIME!!!'
God bless you Marty."
Former Chargers wide receiver, Vincent Jackson, passed away on February 15, 2021 at the age of 38.
The team released the following statement:
"We are shocked and deeply saddened by news of Vincent Jackson's sudden passing. Vincent was a fan favorite not only for his Pro Bowl play on the field but for the impact he made on the community off of it. The work he has done on behalf of military families through his foundation in the years since his retirement has been an inspiration to all of us. We simply cannot believe he's gone, and our hearts go out to his wife, Lindsey, their children, his parents, former teammates and everyone whose lives were touched by having known Vincent."
Vincent Jackson, a second round in the 2005 NFL Draft, spent seven seasons with the Bolts, accruing 272 receptions for 4,754 yards and 37 touchdowns, being honored as a Pro Bowler twice (2009, 2011).
Shawne Merriman on Vincent Jackson:
"You come in as teammates and you leave as brothers, some things are hard to understand and hard to figure out why but I'm not questioning God's plans. I'm going to miss those occasional calls to call me soft and me saying come say it to my face Sweety Pie, lol. VJ"
Antonio Cromartie on Vincent Jackson:
"Man, just now seeing the news of VJ. Damn man. Hell of a teammate. Sending my condolences to the Jackson Family. Our battles on the practice field were so fun. We made each other better. We had a brotherhood in that locker room that was unmatched. You will be missed bro. Damn."
Nick Hardwick on Vincent Jackson
"Lots of tears and prayers for the Jackson family, as we learned of the tragic news of Vincent's passing. Vincent was a great teammate and a hell of a friend. I was so proud to watch him go to Tampa Bay, turn into a Captain of the Bucs and a pillar in the community. The last time I spent with him was one of the most memorable, engaging conversations I have ever had with anyone. His loss is a tragedy. I'm heartbroken. You will be missed brother!"
Former Chargers guard, Doug "Moosie" Wilkerson, passed away on February 21, 2021 at the age of 73.
"Moosie was one-of-a-kind," said Chargers Owner and Chairman of the Board Dean Spanos. "A member of our Chargers Hall of Fame, 40th and 50th anniversary teams, the Black College Football Hall of Fame and a three-time All Pro, to say he was vital to the success of our Air Coryell era teams would be an understatement. Yet for everything he accomplished on the field, his regular visits to our facility during his retirement years are probably what everyone in our Chargers family will remember most.
"A giant smile, ear-to-ear, as he walked down the halls, bouncing from one department to the next. A word of advice. A captive audience for those who needed one. Just seeing him made you feel good. The world needs more Moosies in it. What a bright light he was. Our hearts, prayers and deepest sympathies are with the Wilkerson family and everyone who loved Moosie."
Dan Fouts on Doug Wilkerson:
"We had a team of exceptional athletes and the names are all familiar. But Doug Wilkerson is among the most athletic, tough, strong, dedicated and passionate players I ever played with. It saddens me to no end because I know how much he fought to protect me game, after game, after game. It just leaves a real hole in my life.
You think about Donnie (Macek) and Ed (White) and Moosie protecting the most vulnerable spots in a pass rush, and that's right up the middle. The three of them worked in concert beautifully and protected me from guys like 'Mean' Joe Greene and Howie Long and Rubin Carter, and the list goes on and on. I owe so much to those guys.
I wish that Chuck Muncie was still able to give us a comment because the way those two worked together, their speed was equal. He had unbelievable speed and strength. We called him Bull Moose for a reason – it wasn't just a fancy nickname! It got shortened to Moosie, but it was always Bull Moose to us.
Those five guys were just everything to me. You had Billy (Shields) and Big Ru (Russ Washington) with those three; I just don't have enough words of gratitude."
Charlie Joiner on Doug Wilkerson:
"I first met Doug Wilkerson in Houston. The year after I got there, he was Houston's first-round pick. What an athlete. He didn't fit in, in Houston, so they sent him to San Diego which was perfect for him. What a player.
He impacted the offensive line in such a way, that it made pass-blocking an art. He did things that Dan Fouts liked. When you do things that the quarterback liked, it was good … He was a great football player. He always got the job done. Didn't take nothing off anybody. He was smart, didn't make mental errors, which the quarterback loved that. He mastered the blocking schemes. And another thing about him, he was always there. I can't think of a time that he missed a game. You could depend on Doug Wilkerson being there 16 games a year.
I got traded to San Diego in '76 and decided to make a trip out to San Diego in March. I walked out of the airport and the first person I saw was Doug Wilkerson. I didn't know they were going to send him over to me to pick me up. We reunited and I was so glad there was a face I knew from that team. I was so relieved when I saw a familiar face. I thought I was coming to an area that was hard to adjust to, but Doug Wilkerson made the adjustment very, very easy because I knew what kind of player he was, and he never said a bad word about anybody. He was absolutely the greatest guy in the world.
He should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame."
Former defensive line coach Wayne Nunnely passed away on February 16, 2021 at the age of 68.
Nunnely had a coaching career that spanned over three decades between college and the pros. He spent 12 years (1997-2008) coaching the Chargers defensive line with players like Luis Castillo, Jamal Williams, and Marcellus Wiley, among others.
Jamal Williams on Wayne Nunnely:
"The man. The teacher. The coach. The mentor. God brought home a great one this week. We are forever grateful for your guidance that helped so many men throughout the years, Coach. And thank you Miss Velda for being there right by his side through everything. I remember Coach always saying that you 'picked a good one,' fully knowing it was really the other way around! May peace and God's blessings be with the Nunnely family and everyone Coach's extraordinary life touched."
Former linebacker Ron Botchan passed away on January 28, 2021 at the age of 85.
Botchan was a starting linebacker for the original 1960 Los Angeles Chargers squad under head coach Sid Gillman. He then went on to play for the Houston Oilers in 1961, but after his playing career ended, he coached at Los Angeles City College.
Post-coaching, he forged a career in officiating where he worked as an NFL official for 22 years and officiated five Super Bowls.
Retired NFL Referee Jerry Markbreit:
"Ron had a deep love for NFL officiating. He had plenty of success himself, but he was committed to passing along his knowledge and experience to the officials that followed him. He uniquely bridged generations, always finding time to spend with newer officials to help them learn the finer points of the job. There will never be another one quite like Ron."
Former Chargers linebacker, Steve Hendrickson, passed away on January 8, 2021 at the age of 54.
Hendrickson spent five seasons with the Bolts and was part of the 1994 AFC Champion team that appeared in Super Bowl XXIX.