Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau’s girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near him, McCoy said. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.
His death stunned the region he represented with almost reckless abandon.
“It’s a sad thing. It’s hard to understand,” said Bobby Beathard, who as Chargers general manager took Seau out of Southern California with the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft. “He was really just a great guy. If you drew up a player you’d love to have the opportunity to draft and have on the team and as a teammate, Junior and Rodney (Harrison), they’d be the kind of guys you’d like to have.”
Seau’s mother appeared before reporters outside the former player’s house, weeping uncontrollably.
“I don’t understand … I’m shocked,” Luisa Seau cried out.
Her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week, she said.
“He’s joking to me, he called me a ‘homegirl,’ ” she said.
“I just can’t imagine this, because I’ve never seen Junior in a down frame of mind,” Beathard said. “He was always so upbeat and he would keep people up.”
“He practiced the way he played. He made practice fun. He was a coach’s dream. He was an amazing guy as well as a player and a person. This is hard to believe.”
Seau’s ex-wife, Gina, told the Union-Tribune San Diego that he texted her and each of their three children separate messages: “I love you.”
“We’re all in shock,” she said. “We’re beyond sad and beyond shocked. The kids and I are just huddled together at home. There is no way to make sense of this.”
Seau, who played in the NFL for parts of 20 seasons, is the eighth member of San Diego’s lone Super Bowl team who has died, all before the age of 45. Lew Bush, Shawn Lee, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Curtis Whitley and Chris Mims are the others.
Seau’s also is among a few recent, unexpected deaths of NFL veterans.
Former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson’s family has filed a wrongful death suit against the NFL, claiming the league didn’t do enough to prevent or treat concussions that severely damaged Duerson’s brain before he died in in February 2011.
Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling, who had joined in a concussion-related lawsuit against the league – one of dozens filed in the last year – died in April at age 62. His wife has said he suffered from depression and dementia after taking years of hits.
Seau, however, is not known to have been a plaintiff in the concussion litigation.
When ex-quarterback Stan Humphries joined the Chargers in a 1992 trade, he said it was obvious Seau was “the person who had the most energy, the most excited, the guy who tried to rally everybody.” Humphries said Seau “brought out a lot of youngness” in older players.
He also helped younger players.
“So sad to hear about Jr Seau,” tweeted New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was with San Diego from 2001-05. “Junebug. Buddy. The greatest teammate a young guy could ask for. This is a sad day. He will be missed greatly.”
Seau called many of those around him “Buddy.” He often referred to teammates as “my players.”
Seau was voted to a Chargers-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.
“We all lost a friend today,” Chargers President Dean Spanos said in a statement. “This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine.”
Seau’s greatest game may have been in the 17-13 victory at Pittsburgh in the AFC Championship game in January 1995 that sent the Chargers to the Super Bowl. Playing through the pain of a pinched nerve in his neck, he spread out his 16 tackles from the first play to the second-to-last. San Diego was routed 49-26 in the Super Bowl by San Francisco.
Humphries also recalled Seau recovering John Elway’s fumble to seal a come-from-behind victory in the 1994 opener at Denver.
Seau left the Chargers after the 2002 season when the team unceremoniously told him he was free to pursue a trade. He held a farewell news conference at the restaurant he owned in Mission Valley, and later was traded to Miami.
Seau retired a few times, the first in August 2006, when he said, “I’m not retiring. I am graduating.”
Four days later, he signed with the New England Patriots. He was with the Patriots when they lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl following the 2007 season, which ended New England’s quest for a perfect season.
Last fall, finally retired for good, Seau was inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame.
His last season was 2009.
“Twenty years, to be part of this kind of fraternity, to be able to go out and play the game that you love, and all the lessons and the friends and acquaintances which you meet along the way, you can’t be in a better arena,” Seau said in August.
The Patriots issued a statement expressing grief over Seau’s death. “This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates,” the statement said.
More than 100 people gathered outside of Seau’s home, only hours after he was found dead. Families showed up with flowers and fans wearing Chargers jerseys waited to get news.
Several hours after Seau was found, his body was loaded onto a medical examiner’s van and taken away as fans snapped pictures and raised their hands in the air as if in prayer.
Family friend Priscilla Sanga said about 50 friends and family members gathered in the garage where Seau’s body lay on a gurney and they had the opportunity to say goodbye.
“Everybody got to see Junior before they took him away,” Sanga said. “He looked so peaceful and cold. It was disbelief. We all touched him and kissed him.”