Junior Seau died yesterday reportedly of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his chest. He was 43.
I'm writing about it here because Seau was, one, a huge NFL personality, playing in 20 seasons for the San Diego Chargers, the Miami Dolphins and the New England Patriots. Twelve straight seasons, he made the Pro Bowl, and he played the second-most games in league history at the outside linebacker position. He also played in two Super Bowls, XXIX for the Chargers and XLII for the Patriots. (Both were losses.)
Two, Seau also became a huge part of his community, doing so much for so many. His Junior Seau Foundation donated $4 million toward helping kids go to college, and millions more went to local charities.
Seau's good friend and former Charger teammate Hank Bauer told USA Today, "His favorite thing in the world every holiday was his 'Shop With a Jock.' He bussed in hundreds of (underprivileged) kids to a local Target store and they were paired with an athlete and given $100 that night to shop for Christmas gifts for family."
It's just unbelievable this happened. Earlier in the day, he was playing golf with Bill Goldberg.
So how does he go from playing golf to pointing a gun at himself and pulling a trigger?
USA Today reports: "Post-death exams of his brain showed he suffered moderately advanced evidence of chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a progressive degenerative disease related to repeated concussive blows. The disease has been linked to at least 18 deceased NFL players, researchers have reported, but no definitive cause-effect relationship has been established."
The disease also leads to depression, dementia, and Alzheimer's.
I don't know how to react to that. Part of me thinks the league should do more at this point to figure out why so many of its former players are dying prematurely. And even among the living, there are rampant cases of depression, Alzheimer's, and other brain damage.
I don't have many answers, but it seems like the league should at least begin seriously asking more questions.
Meanwhile, honor Seau. Look up his foundation, maybe donate to one of his causes. Or just spend a few minutes YouTubing him. Here's one to get you started.