“Bad news has never good timing”, as they say.
We were forced to experience the validity of this saying exactly one year ago, on May 2nd 2012. On this black Wednesday last year, it had been reported by the media all across the nation, that the linebacker legend and fan favorite Junior Seau died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest in his home in Oceanside, California. With his decision to end his life, he left behind four children, his girlfriend, his ex-wife and of course millions of fans all over the world which looked up to him.
I guess it was tough for all of us to believe those terrible news that had been spread out by pretty much every TV channel in the country. Junior Seau has committed suicide?
Junior Seau, the man who always had been known as enthusiastic, optimistic and always willing to fight and never giving up?
Junior Seau, the man who created his own foundation to inspire young people to face life’s challenges with enthusiasm, hope and dignity – he of all people has committed suicide? It definitely wasn´t easy to accept this horrible story.
Junior was not only the leader on the field and in the locker room, he also was a mentor to fellow NFL stars – e.g. to a man who we know as “LT”, Ladanian Tomlinson – and a role model to many, many kids out there. In 1992, he created the Junior Seau Foundation, an organization formed “to educate and empower young people through the support of child-abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational programs.” Since then, nearly $4 million has been distributed to organizations providing services to children and young adults.
I am not a father (yet), but I´m wondering what I would have told my son or daughter, when he or she came up with the question, why did Junior do what he did. How to find the words, that could explain to a child who looked up to him (as many kids did and still do), that a man who taught to fight and to never give up, did a exactly that: he gave up his life. A man who tried to inspire young people to see the positive aspects of life´s challenges, killed himself ´cause he – obviously – could not see any positive or bright aspect in his own life. Surely would be tough find words which could serve as some kind of “answer”.
In January this year, doctors announced that Seau showed signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE). CTE is known to occur from repeated blows to the head. It carries with it symptoms such as dementia and depression.
According to his ex-wife Gina Seau and to 23-year-old son Tyler, Junior had wild behavioral swings in the final years of his life, along with signs of irrationality, forgetfulness, insomnia and depression. “He emotionally detached himself and would kind of `go away’ for a little bit,” Tyler Seau said. “And then the depression and things like that. It started to progressively get worse.” He hid it well in public, they said, but not when he was with family or close friends.
Seau is not the first former NFL player who killed himself and later was found to have had CTE. The NFL safeties Dave Duerson (Chicago Bears) and Ray Easterling (Atlanta Falcons) are others. These are all very tragic incidents, but football is a rough sport; I wonder if one day there will be a chance to completely prevent injuries like that in this sport…but I´m afraid there won´t be an easy way to accomplish that.
But also let us not forget, what an awesome football player he was. Although he never was a member of a Super Bowl winning squad, there are some incredible facts and highlights to tell about his football career – just to mention a few: All-American at USC, 5th overall pick in 1990 NFL Draft, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, named to NFL 1990s All-Decade Team, voted first-team All-Pro by the Associated Press 6 times etc. He definitely is one of the absolutely greatest linebackers of all time.
So, in the end, when it comes down to tragic incidents like this painful suicide by Junior last year, we got to look out for the lessons to be learned. And the best comment I got to hear on that matter, was Dan Fouts´ statement at “Junior Seau´s Celebration of Life” on May, 11th 2012. He said: “The lesson here is: If you need help, get help, it´s out there. All you have to do is swallow your pride and ask for it.” – Words of wisdom from a San Diego Chargers legend.
I guess I speak in behalf of us all, when I say: We will never forget you Junior; you have touched many lives and you were a tremendous source of inspiration for people all around the world.
P.S.: Last year I created a Junior Seau memory on Youtube; maybe you wanna check it out:
Thanks very much!