Trojan Tragedy: Junior Seau found dead
Junior Seau was a Southern California icon. He was introduced to the public on the floor of the Los Angeles Coliseum, where he roamed the grass as one of the most feared linebackers in the collegiate game. He would later move 100 miles south, anchoring a defense for the San Diego Chargers, and establishing himself as one of the greatest players in the history of the franchise.
His efforts off the field included donations to several charities, as a native son would remember and give back to the local community. And 26 years after emerging before us in pads and cleats, Junior Seau was found dead in his Oceanside home, at the age of 43.
Seau died of a gunshot wound to the chest, and was discovered by his girlfriend just before 10 a.m. His unfortunate death is being investigated as self-inflicted, again establishing a link between head trauma, mental illness and suicide.
A native of San Diego, he would attend USC on a football scholarship, where he would transform fifty-five from a simple number to legend. Seau would amass 19 sacks in 1989, while receiving All-American honors. In doing so, he set the bar of expectation for all future Trojans bearing the double-nickels.
The Chargers selected Seau with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft, and he would go on to have a stellar career. He was a 12-time Pro Bowl selection, and NFL Defensive Player of the year in 1992. He would make two Super Bowl appearances, in 1994 (Chargers) and 2007 (Patriots), but retire without a ring. He is a member of the NFL All-90s team and the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame. The Pro Football Hall of Fame still awaits his induction, which should come as soon as he meets the eligibility requirement to be included on the ballot.
I was fortunate enough to have met Junior Seau in person. As a young man, it was a dream come true, after already establishing himself as one of my all-time favorites to wear cardinal and gold. I soon came to realize the big-hitter on the field possessed a big heart away from it. And though I had never brought myself to idolize another man, he quickly became the exception.
Seau is the image the NFL strives for. He went to work, performed his duties, and through his generosity, represented the league as an ambassador and role model off the field. Now we are left to wonder if it was the 20 years of faithful duty that resulted in a choice to take his own life.
Seau’s name surfaced in headlines two years ago, as he drove his SUV off a cliff in what was rumored as an apparent suicide attempt, which came after his arrest for domestic violence. The official statement was that the linebacker fell asleep behind the wheel. 2 years later, we wonder if we missed a warning sign, as we find him dead and alone in his bedroom.
It is with a heavy heart that I say goodbye to a legend, and send my thoughts and prayers to his family and loved ones. Seau leaves behind three children from his immediate family, and a cloud of sorrow above an even larger family of Trojans. He will be miss.