In a perfect world, Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau would today be celebrating his 47th birthday with his family. Instead, all that his friends, family and fans can do is reminisce about his accomplishments on and off the field as a top NFL player. A husband. A father. A brother.
That’s because Seau tragically committed suicide almost four years ago on May 2, 2012, when his girlfriend found him dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Though he had no prior history of concussions, the autopsy did find that he had been suffering from the horrible disease known as CTE.
But to say that Seau was just another player lost to CTE would be a blatant falsehood. Though he departed this world in one of the worst ways possible, he was still one of the most beloved men of his time. In a 20-year NFL career spent with the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and, most importantly, Seau’s beloved San Diego Chargers, Seau simply did it all. On top of 1,849 tackles, he had 56.5 sacks to go with 11 forced fumbles and 18 interceptions.
And Seau was more than just the numbers. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler. He was the 1992 Defensive Player of the Year. He had a foundation that worked towards educating youths through various means including drugs and alcohol awareness, child abuse prevention and others. The only thing that Seau didn’t have on his lengthy resume was a Super Bowl victory, though he did play in two.
But the greatest effect Seau had was on the fans, hands down. I recall as a child that even though Seau was on the west coast and thus not on our TV screens regularly, his on-field abilities were respected nationwide. I would play touch football with friends at the local park and whenever we blitzed the quarterback, we’d usually scream “SEAU!!!” before completely breaking the rules and tackling our opponent to the ground. There was just no better way to honor him then.
Which is why today, on his birthday, it is important that we remember Seau and thank him for everything. Being an NFL star means putting one’s body on the line week after week, day after day, year after year, lifetime after lifetime, and the fact that it was Seau’s first love that took us away from him decades too soon makes his loss still tough to deal with every passing year.
So, with that, let us raise a toast to Tiaina Baul Seau Jr., a man who may be gone, but is never forgotten.
*Featured Photo (above) credit to USA TODAY Sports