(Photo courtesy of the New England Patriots)
By Clark Judge
Talk of Fame Network
A week ago, readers named former San Diego linebacker Junior Seau as the most eligible first-ballot choice for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015. Now, one of Seau’s former coaches – New England’s Bill Belichick – has joined the chorus, and while he stopped short of saying Seau should be a first-ballot choice he made it clear what he thinks voters should do in January.
And that’s put Seau where he belongs … in Canton.
“Nobody would be more deserving to be in the Hall of Fame than Junior Seau,” Belichick said. “More than stats, his love of the game, his passion for the game and the high level that he played at a very difficult position. I mean him, Clay Matthews Jr. … guys that played as long as they did at that position as well as he did is phenomenal.”
Belichick is right, of course. Seau had an illustrious 20-year career that included a zillion tackles, big plays, numerous Pro-Bowl and All-Pro nominations, all-decade recognition, selections to the Chargers’ 50th-anniversary team and Hall of Fame and a Super Bowl appearance.
His critics contend that he too often was out of position and missed nearly as many plays as he made, but they’re misguided. Seau was one of the most instinctive players I ever covered, and while he might blow an assignment he rarely missed a play – and, yes, there is a difference.
“He had unbelievable physical talent,” said Ron Lynn, his first defensive coordinator at San Diego and now the director of player development at Stanford University. “I can see in my mind as clearly as if it were yesterday where the ball was on the far hash mark on his left, and he was playing right outside linebacker. (The opposing quarterback) threw a screen to the other side, and Junior somehow made the tackle for no gain at the line of scrimmage. I was like: ‘You don’t do that. You can’t run that fast to that side.’ But he had that ability. He had an explosive ‘pop’ and explosive instincts.
“When I was at Junior’s funeral, I talked to Tedy (Bruschi, former New England linebacker) and asked him, ‘How many times did he say, ‘Cover me, I’m blitzing on this one?’ And he almost busted a gut. He said, ‘Five or six times a game.’ So I said, ‘What happened?’ And Tedy said, ‘Four or five times he made huge plays because he had such good instincts.’ I know he sometimes played outside the scheme, but he did it with a rare instinct about what would happen on that particular play.”
There were few linebackers who played with the passion, the ferocity and the effectiveness of Junior Seau. All I know is there must have been a reason he made the All-Pro team 10 times – including eight as a first-teamer – and it wasn’t because he missed tackles. It was because he was an exceptional player who could ignite … and carry … a defense.
Which means I’m with Bill Belichick on this one. And so is Ron Lynn.
“I’d say that’s a pretty good guy to make that statement,” he said of Belichick, “because he's been around LT (Lawrence Taylor).”
Taylor was a first-ballot choice, one of 73 -- or 25.4 percent of the 287 enshrinees. It’s not rare to be one, but you must be extraordinary. Linebacker Derrick Brooks and Tackle Walter Jones were first-ballot selections this year. Tackle Jonathan Ogden and defensive tackle Warren Sapp were first-ballot choices in 2013. So it can happen. And it should in January.
With Junior Seau.