OCEANSIDE, CALIF. (AP) - Junior Seau’s apparent suicide stunned an entire city and saddened former teammates who recalled the former NFL star’s ferocious tackles and habit of calling everybody around him “Buddy.”
It also left everyone wondering what led to Seau’s death Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
“I’m sorry to say, Superman is dead,” said Shawn Mitchell, a chaplain for the San Diego Chargers. “All of us can appear to be super, but all of us need to reach out and find support when we’re hurting.”
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. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.
“We have no clues whatsoever,” Gina Seau said. “We’re as stunned and shocked as anyone else. We’re horribly saddened. We miss him and we’ll always love him.”
Seau’s death in Oceanside, in northern San Diego County, stunned the region he represented with almost reckless abandon. The same intensity that got the star linebacker ejected for fighting in his first exhibition game helped carry the Chargers to their only Super Bowl, following the 1994 season. A ferocious tackler, he’d leap up, pump a fist and kick out a leg after dropping a ball carrier or quarterback.
“It’s a sad thing. It’s hard to understand,” said Bobby Beathard, who as Chargers general manager took Seau out of Southern California 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.”
Quarterback Stan Humphries recalled that Seau did everything at the same speed, whether it was practicing, lifting weights or harassing John Elway.
“The intensity, the smile, the infectious attitude, it carried over to all the other guys,” said Humphries, who was shocked that Seau is now the eighth player from the ‘94 Super Bowl team to die.
Seau’s mother appeared before reporters outside the former player’s house, 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’s death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.