CANTON, Ohio - Tim Brown still wonders if he could have saved Junior Seau's life . . . if only.
The former Raiders receiver knew something was wrong with Seau when the two spoke at the former linebacker's charity golf tournament in spring 2012. Seau just didn't appear to be himself, didn't crack the usual jokes, flash that signature smile or show the infectious enthusiasm.
"It was like he didn't really care how people perceived him at that point," Brown said Friday, the day before Hall of Fame ceremonies honoring him and seven others, including Seau. "The other athletes [at the tournament] were laughing, but I got so upset I went back to the [hotel] room. The first thing I did was call Marcus Allen and say, 'Look, this is what I just saw. We need to speak to this brother.' "
They never got the chance.
Shortly before Brown's tournament, which was to take place a few weeks after Seau's event, Allen told his former Raiders teammate his plans had changed and that he couldn't make it. So the two decided they'd talk to Seau at Allen's tournament in a couple of weeks.
But 36 hours after Brown's tournament ended, Seau was dead.
The former All-Pro linebacker for the Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots shot himself in the chest May 2, 2012. It eventually was discovered that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative disease of the brain that is associated with repeated brain trauma.
It is thus with a heavy heart that Brown will take his place in the Hall of Fame in the same class as Seau.
"It's tough because you mention his name and everybody cries, even three years later," said Brown, one of the most productive receivers in NFL history with 1,094 catches for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns. "I was just shocked, devastated [when Seau committed suicide]. To be honest, I got mad at him, too. So many people loved him. So many guys around the league loved him so much. If he'd have reached out to anybody, the world would have been at his doorstep trying to figure out what his problem was."
Seau's daughter, Sydney, is expected to speak at the ceremonies after Hall of Fame officials reversed course and changed their protocol to allow her to speak. She will be joined by several family members, including Seau's mother. The family has sued the NFL, claiming that the league did not properly warn Seau of the dangers of head trauma.
In addition to Seau and Brown, six men will be celebrated: 49ers and Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley, Chiefs guard Will Shields, Vikings center Mick Tingelhoff, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis, Packers general manager Ron Wolf and Bills, Colts and Panthers general manager Bill Polian. And Seau was very much on the minds of his fellow inductees.
"Junior's tenacity was unbelievable," said Shields, one of the best blocking guards in NFL history. "He would mess up your total offense with the way he played and different things. He was so undisciplined, but he knew where he was going to go and make your life a living hell, basically. He's a guy you can actually block, knock down, and he'd still get up, catch a tipped pass and try to take it for a touchdown, all on the same play.
"His levity was unbelievable. He was always cracking a joke and was always fun. He brought your spirit up, whether you were playing against him or playing with him in the Pro Bowl."
Haley believes Seau's legacy will live on, both as a player and a symbol for the need to better deal with concussions.
"He was a spokesman for the league. Even in death, he's impacted the league because of the concussion study and stuff," said Haley, who won five Super Bowls for the 49ers and Cowboys. "He was a phenomenal athlete, so he's always impacting our lives. His kids know how much we care about him and how much we love him."