Junior Seau dies at 43
OCEANSIDE, Calif. -- Former NFL star Junior Seau was found dead at his home Wednesday, authorities said. He was 43.
Police chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said, and the incident is being investigated as a suicide.
Seau's mother appeared before reporters, weeping uncontrollably.
"I don't understand ... I'm shocked," Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
"He's joking to me; he called me a 'homegirl,' " she said.
Seau was a standout linebacker with the University of Southern California before going to the San Diego Chargers, whom he led to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
Seau becomes the eighth member of those '94 Chargers, who lost Super Bowl XXIX to the 49ers, to die at a young age. The others: Chris Mims, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Lewis Bush, Curtis Whitley, Shawn Lee and Doug Miller.
Seau's death also follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.
"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family," the team said in a statement.
"It's a sad thing. It's hard to understand," said Bobby Beathard, who as Chargers general manager took Seau with the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft. "He was really just a great guy. If you drew up a player you'd love to have the opportunity to draft and have on the team and as a teammate, Junior and Rodney (Harrison), they'd be the kind of guys you'd like to have.
"He was a leader emotionally and he played that way," Beathard said. "He was great to young kids. I just can't imagine this, because I've never seen Junior in a down frame of mind. He was always so upbeat and he would keep people up. He practiced the way he played. He made practice fun. He was a coach's dream. He was an amazing guy as well as a player and a person. This is hard to believe."
Seau remained with the Chargers until 2003 and went on to play with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots before retiring after the 2009 season.
"Junior was a fierce competitor whose passion and work ethic lifted his teammates to greater heights. His enthusiasm for the game was infectious and he passed that on to everyone who was around him. He loved the game so much, and no one played with more sheer joy," Dolphins CEO Mike Dee said in a statement.
Chargers He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior's family. It's heartbreaking.
” --Chargers president Dean Spanos
"Junior was one-of-a-kind. The league will never see anyone like him again," Dee said.
The Patriots also issued a statement expressing grief over Seau's death. "This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates."
Chargers president Dean Spanos called Seau an icon and a friend.
"I can't put into words how I'm feeling right now. I'm shocked and devastated," Spanos said in a statement. "Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player; he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL.
"This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior's family. It's heartbreaking."
Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was one of many current and former NFL players stunned by the news.
"Wow shocked right now, I tapped Juniors picture every single day before heading out to practice at USC. R.I.P. to a legend n awesome person," the fellow USC alumnus wrote on his Facebook page.
"As a young linebacker, Junior was my hero growing up and once I had the opportunity meet him I saw that he was everything I hoped he would be and more," former Dolphin Zach Thomas said in a statement. "Getting the chance to play alongside of Junior Seau, the greatest linebacker to ever play the game, made my dreams come true. I am absolutely devastated to hear this news. Today I lost my hero, my friend, my buddy."
Jason Taylor, who also played with Thomas and Seau on the Dolphins, said he was "devastated."
Sports World Reacts To Seau's Death
As news filtered out of Seau's death, former teammates, friends and other athletes whose lives Seau touched reacted on Twitter. Reaction
"It would be easy for me to say he was a great friend and teammate, and a tremendous competitor, but that would be selling Junior short," Taylor said in a statement. "Junior Seau was an individual of great honor and integrity, a leader of men and someone with a deep rooted passion for giving of himself to make the people, the community and especially the children around him better. This is an immeasurable loss for so many. My heart and prayers go out to Junior's family, Gina and their children. I'm going to miss you buddy."
Commissioner Roger Goodell sent his condolences to the Seau family on Twitter and NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith said, "The NFLPA player family today joins with the Seau family to mourn a brother lost too soon."
In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.
There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.
Seau spent parts of 20 seasons in the NFL, including 1990-2002 with his hometown Chargers. He led them to their only Super Bowl appearance, was voted to a team-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.
He amassed 1,526 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions in his career.
"Twenty years, to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can't be in a better arena," Seau said last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team's Hall of Fame.
Seau was the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft out of Southern California, and stayed with the Charges until being traded to the Dolphins. He came out of retirement a few times to play with the Patriots in search of a Super Bowl ring and was with the team when they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl after the 2007 season, which ended New England's quest for a perfect season.
"We are tremendously saddened to hear this news and our hearts go out to his family and children," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement. "Junior Seau was one of the greatest legends in USC football history. He will always be remembered by USC as the original No. 55."
More than 100 people gathered outside of Seau's home, only hours after he was found dead. Families showed up with flowers and fans wearing Chargers jerseys waited to get more news.