Mourning Junior Seau
I was stunned to hear on CNN yesterday afternoon that Junior Seau, the icon linebacker for the Chargers (and later Dolphins and Patriots) was dead at 43, an apparent victim of suicide. This guy was a multimillionaire in the prime of his life, a true hero, superstar, and celebrity; he seemed to have the world in his hands. I guess we never know what problems someone shares and that pain must be so consuming that staying in this world becomes too painful to bear. A big part of me feels that it may not have been a suicide.
I have met a lot of professional athletes, largely due to my friendship with Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly and his family. The majority of “superstar” athletes are not all that friendly and many are totally unapproachable. I had the pleasure of meeting and socializing with Junior several times. He did not know me from Adam and would never have remembered meeting me, but he treated me like we grew up together. He was simply a nice guy. He has an infectious smile and would simply sit and talk to you like the guy next door. I first met him in Cancun at a televised superstar competition from one of the networks. Jim introduced us to Junior and his then wife. It was at the beginning of his career and I couldn’t get over how massive this guy was. He had that sparkle in his eye and you just knew he was going to be a great player. He was also one of the most active NFL players to give back to communities. His passion for helping others is legendary.
I met him again about 5-6 years ago and he was not quite as muscular as before but still a football player with a bodybuilder physique. Again, he was friendly, accommodating and a gentleman. Junior was so international that he had a circle of friends and support that most people don’t. This entire tragedy seemed to come out of nowhere. The sports networks are a buzz with other superstars in tears about why Junior did not reach out to anyone. There is talk about a previous concussion being responsible and this comes on the heels of a more local tragedy with the loss of University and Atlanta Falcons star Ray Easterling who just last week also committed suicide and reportedly also felt he was a victim of previous NFL head trauma. As I write this, there are 114 NFL players filing a lawsuit in Federal court suing for the way they were handled in a time when the culture of pro football was all about big hits and brutality.
Regardless of the cause, Junior’s 4 children, the world, and especially the San Diego and NFL communities have lost a compassionate leader and all around good guy. We will miss number 55.
Joe Niamtu, III