WFAA Sports Blogger
Posted on May 3, 2012 at 3:25 PM
Thursday, May 3 at 5:19 PM
It's been 24 hours since the news of Junior Seau's suicide broke and I'm still in shock. Perhaps shock isn't the right word. Two years ago, Seau denied that a car accident he was involved in was actually a suicide attempt. The guy certainly had some demons and never could seem to run away from them completely. But it's hard to find anyone who knew Seau, played with him or even had just a passing moment with the guy who didn't walk away singing his praises. Everyone who spoke of him yesterday started their tributes to him with one word. His signature greeting, "Buddy".
While I hesitate to linger on the grislier details of yesterday, it is being reported that Seau killed himself with a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. This is noteworthy because it brings to mind the suicide of Dave Duerson, the former Bears player who requested that his brain be donated to science for studies on the affects of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, or CTE. CTE is the elephant in the room that Roger Goddell and the rest of the NFL wants everyone to ignore. In fact, the results of studies on Duerson's brain revealed that he had suffered neurodegenerative damage from frequent concussions inflicted on the field.
But this isn't the time to speculate that Seau's suicide can be linked back directly to hits he took. While the issue does need to be addressed, I'm far more concerned with paying tribute to a man whose heyday happened to coincide with the formative football-watching years of my childhood. It breaks my heart to watch footage of him in his Chargers or Patriots uniform, basking in the applause of thousands of proud fans. Because it's hard for me to imagine how tough it must have been for him to go from that highest of highs to a life of retirement. It's difficult to imagine him struggling with depression while thousands of kids across the country participate in two-a-days in hopes of one day being called "the next Junior Seau."
He filled his time post-retirement with his Junior Seau Foundation, famous for its Celebrity Golf Tournament held each year. He didn't go broke, show up in a series of scrapes with the law or open a variety of failed car dealerships. Other than the unfortunate car accident in 2010, he lived a pretty low-profile post-gridiron life. Junior had a brief foray into television with Versus' "Sports Jobs With Junior Seau," but the show didn't make much of a splash. If you had asked me 48 hours ago what Junior Seau was up to these days, I'd have asked to get back to you on it.
Why then, when I heard the terrible news, did I react so strongly? I mean, I really can't remember where I was when I heard Sean Taylor had been shot and killed or what I was doing when I heard about Mark Tuinei's fatal overdose. But I'll never forget where I was when I heard the news yesterday and how hard it hit me.
I guess it's because I always liked the guy. I always had a sneaking suspicion that Junior Seau was a really good, warm, loving and kind person. I never met him and he never played for my team. Yet I still find myself, a day later, in shock. So I'll leave the speculation on brain damage and discussions of how well or poorly the NFL treats its retired players to others. I'm still mourning the loss of a rarity in this world: a pro athlete who everyone seems to agree was quite simply a good, down to earth dude. He will be missed.