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Danny Shelton Would Be Honored To Wear Junior Seau’s No. 55 With Patriots

Wearing No. 55 on the New England Patriots Jerseys would mean the world to recent acquisition Danny Shelton.
Shelton, who the Patriots acquired last week in a trade with the Cleveland Browns, has a special connection to the number. His late brother, Shennon, wore it in high school. It also was donned — on the Patriots, no less — by Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, with whom Shelton shares his Samoan heritage.

Seau, who died in 2012, played for the Patriots from 2006 to 2009.

“I think it would be awesome,” Shelton said. “Any opportunity I get to wear the number, I would take in a heartbeat. It’s just amazing to have this opportunity to play for a great organization and knowing that one of my role models, one of the guys I looked up to, played here.

“Actually, a couple guys. Vince Wilfork, as well. Just knowing I’ll be able to play for a team that’s had such great talent here. I just want to add to the team’s success and be a part of the team.”

There is a roadblock, however. Defensive end Eric Lee was given No. 55 when he was claimed off waivers by the Patriots last season. Lee wore No. 95 in high school, No. 91 in college and No. 47 with the Houston Texans and Buffalo Bills, so it seems his connection to No. 55 might not be quite as strong as Shelton’s.

Shelton wore No. 71 in high school and in his first three years at the University of Washington before switching to No. 55 as a senior. He also wore No. 71 in his rookie season with the Browns before switching to No. 55 in 2016. So, Shelton has had to wait before making the switch in the past. (The No. 71 jersey would be available if offensive tackle Cameron Fleming leaves in free agency.)

Perhaps Shelton and Lee could swing a deal to swap numbers. Shelton, who tips the scales at 335 pounds, probably would need a new size, however, since Lee is only 260 pounds.

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The Legacy of Junior Seau: ‘Take Care of the Kids Brains’

Junior Seau’s dying wish was that we prevent CTE from ravaging our kids brains. Let’s honor that legacy.

Dr. Chris Nowinski asked the crowd to raise their hand if they had gotten a severe knock on the head in the past year. About 20 people raised their hands—not too surprising from the crowd of about 200, considering many in the room were there to learn about brain trauma after having experienced it firsthand. Dr. Nowinski then asked “How many of you have been hit in the head 10 times?”

No one raised their hands.

The reason for that, Dr. Nowinski explained, is that adults know better than to hit their head repeatedly.

The only people time people repeatedly hit their heads is if they are 1) paid for it or 2) children.

The crowd was gathered for a fundraiser put on by Junior Seau’s sister, Mary Seau, for the Mary Seau CTE Foundation. Junior Seau was an All-Pro linebacker for the San Diego Chargers. He took his life in 2012 at the age of 43. He shot himself in the heart so his brain could be studied.  Research by the National institute of Health later confirmed that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). The disease is thought to be caused by repetitive hits to the brain and can lead to conditions such as dementia, rage and depression.

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Before Junior died, he had told his sister “Take care of the kids brains.”

The event brought together people people who CTE has affected, and some, like Mary Seau, who have decided to make CTE awareness their life’s work.  Often there is an “aha” moment when people finally comprehend the severity of the CTE as a progressive disease. Other times, the catalyst is a loved one who is affected or has died of the disease. Debbie Pyka is a CTE activist who has been coming to our Disposability of Men / Sports and Traumatic Brain Injuries group. Her son Joseph died after playing contact sports and his brain was subsequently found to have CTE. Debbie has taken on the really difficult calls to parents after their child has died, asking them to consider allowing the brain to be studied to see if it has shown signs of CTE. Anyone who had played a collision sport and then dies unexpectedly — whether it is through suicide, an accident (which might have been caused by reckless behavior or poor cognitive function), or drug overdose — has possibly had CTE. Studying the brains is a path towards awareness of the scope of the problem as well as better understanding prevention and possibly a future cure. Kimberly Archie, another activist who has also lost a son, spoke at the event about the need for more outreach and more conversations about this issue.