Willie McGinest had a lot in common with legendary LB Junior Seau. They played the same position, wore the same number (55) and started at the same college (USC).
When informed of Seau’s passing Wednesday, McGinest told NFL Network that he was completely caught off guard.
“I’m still in shock,” said McGinest, a former Patriots and Browns linebacker who’s now an NFL Network analyst. “It’s sad, man. It’s really sad.”
McGinest said he just recently spent time with Seau at an event for former USC football players.
“He was upbeat,” McGinest said. “I mean, Junior’s always upbeat.”
McGinest said Seau was “his normal self, you know, cracking jokes, making everybody laugh, having a good time, and just excited to be a part of what we was a part of.”
When Seau joined the Patriots in 2006, one year after McGinest left the team, McGinest said Seau called him to ask if he could wear No. 55. McGinest was touched by the gesture, given that Seau began the tradition of having linebackers wear the number at USC.
McGinest said he will remember Seau as a friendly person — “He always called everybody ‘buddy’ ” — and implored fans and observers not to make any preemptive judgments about Seau’s death (the linebacker died of a gunshot wound to the chest).
“Nobody knows what Junior was going through,” McGinest said. “You know, he has a family, he has kids. It’s not always about football. … There’s a lot to life, and Juinor, he affected a lot of people’s lives in a positive way, through his personality, through his energy, and through his charity.”