By Rock Mayock 1:40 p.m. | Sad news has broken today. Former USC, San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots superstar linebacker Junior Seau was found dead in his Oceanside, CA home from a self inflicted gunshot. He was only 43. The FOOTBALLPHDS will not dignify the media frenzy surrounding the circumstances of Seau’s untimely passing as we would rather recognize the man for his accomplishments on and off the gridiron.
Junior Seau truly is an American success story. Raised in Samoa his ancestral roots run deep in the islands. His great grandfather was a village chief in Pago Pago. At an early age his parents migrated from Samoa to Camp Pendleton where his father worked as a school janitor and his mother at both the Camp commissary and a Laundromat. The Seau family shuttled between American Samoa and the mainland for several years before establishing permanent roots in San Diego when Junior was 7. The family remained a blue collar working class family throughout Junior’s childhood. Despite these economic challenges Junior excelled at basketball, football and track while attending Oceanside High. Junior used his athletic prowess to earn a scholarship to play football at USC.
While at USC Junior was forced to sit out his freshman year due to academic ineligibility (his 690 SAT score was below the minimum standard of 700 for freshman eligibility). Seau used this experience and the ensuing personal and family scrutiny from the Samoan community to fuel his incredible athletic and academic performance during his next three seasons at USC. In his own words:
""I was labeled a dumb jock. I went from being a four-sport star to an ordinary student at USC. I found out who my true friends were. Nobody stuck up for me—not our relatives, best friends or neighbors. There's a lot of jealousy among Samoans, not wanting others to get ahead in life, and my parents got an earful at church: 'We told you he was never going to make it.'"
Junior didn’t only make it at USC, he dominated. He was the originator of the “Immaculate Jersey,” a privilege reserved for only a chosen few USC linebackers. Other USC linebackers who have donned the #55 Immaculate Jersey are Jack Del Rio (pre Seau but he still counts), Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne, Markus Steele (we’ll conveniently forget about him), and Keith Rivers. Junior went on to become consensus All American in 1989 and the #5 overall pick to the San Diego Chargers in 1990.
During his Hall of Fame NFL career Junior Seau redefined the linebacker position. Both his production and work ethic were legendary and the on the field results cannot be disputed.
12 Pro Bowls: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002
10 Time All Pro: 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000
AFC Player of the Year: 1994
Career Tackles: 1,849
Career Sacks: 56.5
Career Interceptions: 18
Career Forced Fumbles: 3
Career Pass Deflections: 21
Outside of the NFL Junior was heavily involved in both business and charitable endeavors. His Mission Valley based restaurant, Seau’s The Restaurant, has been a San Diego institution since it opened it's doors in 1996. Junior also started an apparel line aptly titled Say-Ow. Since 1992, the Junior Seau Foundation has worked to assist young adults by educating about child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol abuse awareness, offer after-school education and recreation programs in addition to fighting juvenile delinquency.
In short, Junior was a man who remembered his humble roots. He succeeded at all facets of his life. He clawed his way out of a world of impoverishment, obtained a college education from a premiere university, enjoyed success at the highest level of athletic competition, succeeded in business and then tried to give underprivileged children the opportunities he never had. He is the embodiment of a true Trojan.
RIP Junior. Fight On.