OCEANSIDE (CBS) — Hundreds of friends and fans took part in a paddle out in Oceanside Sunday in honor of 43-year-old Junior Seau, the former USC and San Diego Charger standout who committed suicide Wednesday.
“He was my idol, He’s my hero. And it’s a sad day, but it’s a good day,” said one surfer.
Everyone hit the water with heavy hearts. But they all agreed Seau would have been beyond touched by the gesture and tribute. Said Patty Whitlock, “He always called me Mamma Whitlock and I said ‘Momma’s going… I’m going out there!’ And I did.”
Seau was an avid surfer, and today his cousin’s brought out his board and took it out for one final ride.
Lena Malpeai will recall how sweet Seau was. “He was such a kind person,” she said, “and we just want to say thank you.”
Jesse Reyes will always think of Seau as a hometown hero. “Junior was a deep individual. He made a connection with everybody whether you personally knew him or not.”
The ceremonial paddle out included a circle of prayer. After a moment of silence, friends and fans splashed the water to the sky in tribute to Seau.
For those who didn’t get in the water, they expressed their love in other ways. Thousands snapped photos, tossed flowers into the ocean and cheered the surfers.
Seau helped define San Diego and his fans wanted to remember him in appreciation. Said one, “He was someone you know loved what he did, day in and day out. He loved his city, loved his community, loved everybody. And we love him.”
The Chargers have a public memorial planned for Friday. Seau’s family, meanwhile, is still ironing out details for a private service.
The family was also quoted Sunday saying they were torn about making an announcement earlier that they would donate Seau’s brain for research purposes.