Sydney Seau, daughter of the late Chargers linebacker Junior Seau, would have paid tribute to her father's selflessness, passion and "ability to love unconditionally" in a speech on his behalf, had she been allowed to give it at her father's Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday evening.
The New York Times published the text of the speech she wanted to deliver in his honor, instead. Officials cited a five-year-old policy that does not allow full speeches for deceased inductees.
"Your Junior Seau, your No. 55 and your buddy, was also my father. And although I didn’t know every aspect of his life, I did know one particular part very well," Sydney said from her Canton, Ohio hotel room. "His athleticism and talent made him extraordinary enough to make it into the Hall, but it is his passion and heart that make him truly legendary and deserving of this tremendous honor."
Seau, considered by many to be the greatest linebacker in NFL history, was inducted into the Professional Football Hall of Fame Saturday. Seau was the only first-time eligible candidate selected for the HOF Class of 2015. He joined Jerome Bettis, Tim Brown, Charles Haley, Bill Polian, Will Shields, Mick Tingelhoff, Ron Wolf when the class was officially inducted.
Tiaina Seau, Jr. played 20 years in the NFL. Wearing number 55, Seau played 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers, three seasons with the Miami Dolphins and four with the New England Patriots.
"On the field he was relentless, hard-hitting, passionate and unstoppable. Off the field he was caring, gentle, hilarious and generous," Sydney said.
"But I think what we tend to forget about our favorite invincible, unstoppable, indestructible superhumans is the minor detail that they are also human. That is something that we all must endure today without his physical presence," Sydney said.
On May 2, 2012, Seau was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound in his Oceanside home right along the shore. His death occurred less than three years after his retirement from football. His family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the NFL that is now part of a class-action suit. Sydney did not mention the circumstances surrounding Seau's death in her speech.
"The reason why this honor is so hard to accept is because we had always envisioned him still being here to accept it," Sydney said in the speech from her hotel room.
"Even though he would never admit to retiring, I think this is the perfect final graduation," Sydney said. "I say final graduation because in 2006, instead of retirement, my dad decided to graduate from being a Charger after 13 years. Today is the day he graduates from the game itself."
During the induction ceremony, family members, colleagues and fans watched a six minute video presentation about Seau that left few dry eyes in the audience. The Seau children then unveiled the bronze bust set to go into the Hall of Fame and, following the unveiling, Sydney gave an interview remembering her father.
"I know at times it seemed as if everything you accomplished in life wasn’t enough, but today and every day since you held me in your arms for the first time, you weren’t just enough; you were more than enough. In fact, you were everything," Sydney said in both her interview during the ceremony and the speech in her hotel room.
She spoke of her father's endless capacity for love, his passion for the game and the accomplishments that made him the icon that many considered to be one of the greatest linebackers of all time.
"There’s nothing I want more than to see you walk up on stage, give me a hug and tell me that you love me one last time, but that isn’t our reality," Sydney said. "You would always say you loved me, and even after I would respond and say I loved you, too, you would look me in the eyes and say, 'I love you; do you hear me?'"
"Well, after this speech, I hope you can hear us when we say that we love you, and I hope that this induction can exemplify the fact that you were more than just Junior Seau — you were a light, and you’re still mine," Seau said, tearing up. "This is your speech, your moment and your honor, and to say that I’m the most proud daughter on Earth would be an understatement. Congratulations, Dad; you made it."
To read the entire speech, click here.