Fans shed tears and brought flowers to various sites throughout San Diego as they remembered Wednesday morning in Oceanside.
For some in town, the loss was personal, as they had known Seau, 43, for many years.
Karen Netting met him right after the Chargers drafted him in 1990.
“I did his contract,” said Netting, who now works for the , but was former General Manager Bobby Beathard’s executive assistant then. “I was with him at training camp and at the Super Bowl. I have so many funny stories.”
Her favorite involves cookies and a weight-loss camp for kids at the University of California San Diego campus, near where the Chargers once trained.
The kids were always looking for Seau. When she asked one of them why, he told her it was because Seau had the happy face cookies. He had stacks of them in his room and would give them to any child from the camp who came to his door.
“He was a devil,” Netting said.
His death shocked her. “It was devastating” she said. She pointed out that several of the people who played on the 1995 Super Bowl team are dead, a high number for men in their forties.
All died under tragic circumstances – a plane crash, a lightning strike and now an apparent suicide.
“He was a good and generous person, who made people feel they were special,” she said.
Greg McPartlin, of also knew Seau. When he was a player, Seau was a regular and they got to be friends, along with their children. When Seau opened his own restaurant in Mission Valley, McPartlin helped him get started. Seau used a McP's mug to toast it, McPartlin said.
“One day he asked me how much money I put into my restaurant every month,” McPartlin remembers. “I told him Junior the restaurant is supposed to pay you, so I gave him a few tips and he was fine after that.”
“He was always up,” McPartlin’s daughter Jessica remembered.
Mike O’Conner, a sports producer and co-owner of the , remembers “his energy, his infectious smile.” He didn't put on airs, O'Connor said, unlike other athletes of Seau's caliber.
“He made you feel equal to him,” he said.
O'Connor's business partner, Steve Biafora, met Seau once at a charity tournament at the Lakeside Golf Club in Burbank. “It was a pleasure to be with him that day,” Biafora said. “He couldn’t have been nicer."
Those who never met him were also moved by his death.
“He was the spirit of the Chargers. the spirit of San Diego,” said John Anderson, a retired UPS pilot, as he sat in . “I loved him for years. He made me enjoy the game in ways I hadn’t before.”
Todd Davis, an electrician who works in Coronado, also only knew Seau as a player. “I was just a fan in the crowd,” he said.
Still the linebacker's death hurt.
“He became famous as a defensive player – that tells you something,” said Davis. “Most of the famous players are quarterbacks or running backs. You have to be something special to be noticed.”
The pain also was felt in La Mesa, where Seau had a namesake sports complex.
“He gave his heart to San Diego,” said Alan McCornack outside the center with a crowd paying tribune to Seau. “Everybody in San Diego is going to miss him."
McCornack placed homegrown roses at the complex's sign at Parkway Middle School. “It’s hard to talk about it,” he said with tears in his eyes. “It’s still so fresh.”
The 12-year-old complex—which includes La Mesita Park, the John A. Davis Family YMCA and the football field at the middle school—was one of Seau’s philanthropic projects.
Seau donated $55,000, as well as multiple hours helping garner donations for the complex, which features lighted football and soccer fields, tennis courts and a picnic area.
"Junior wanted to create a facility that would allow kids to participate in sports because youth sports meant a lot to him when he was growing up," said Yvonne Garrett, assistant city manager and director of community services with the c. "He helped us achieve that goal for La Mesa and surrounding communities."
Garrett, like Netting, said her fondest memory of the linebacker involved children.
"Junior had so much fun tossing footballs to the Pop Warner kids," Garrett said of the day the complex opened. "I, along with so many others, am deeply saddened by the news today. My heart goes out to his family."
Parents waiting to pick up their kids at the middle school Wednesday paused to take photos of the sign and leave flowers.
Taylor Puapuaga Jr. wore his Chargers knit cap as he dropped a yellow hibiscus in Seau's memory. He said he identified with him because he, too, is Samoan.
“He gave a good name to the Samoan people,” he said.