Junior Seau, a former NFL linebacker with a Pro Bowl career, died on Wednesday of an apparent gunshot wound at his Oceanside, Calif., home, The Associated Press reported. He was 43.
Police are investigating the death as a possible suicide.
“I don’t understand,” said his mother, Luisa Seau, according to the AP. “I’m shocked.”
She said her son showed no signs of depression, and was acting normally the last time they spoke.
“He’s joking to me, he called me a ‘homegirl,’” she said of their last conversation, the AP reported.
Seau’s girlfriend found his body in a bedroom with a gun beside him and a chest wound.
News of his death saddened and dazed San Diego, where he played the majority of his 20 seasons in the NFL, USA Today said.
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Seau was born Tiaina Baul Seau, Jr. just a few miles from where the Chargers played their games.
He led the Chargers to the 1994 Super Bowl – which they lost to San Francisco – one season after San Diego drafted him fifth overall out of Southern California.
Fans immediately embraced his hard-hitting, emotional style of play, and had the chance to thank him when he was inducted into the Chargers’ hall of fame in 2011.
They gathered again outside his home and his San Diego restaurant today to honor him again.
One of his close friends, pro surfer Donald Takayama, told USA Today the two were planning a trip to Hawaii. Takayama said Seau was excited about the vacation.
“He seemed really happy. I don’t know why, or what or how this came about. Something like this, I just don't understand it.”
His death is among the rising number of ex-pro football players who are taking their own lives, the New York Times said.
Former Atlanta Falcons safety Ray Easterling committed suicide last month, and ex-Chicago Bear Dave Duerson died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound last February.
Many pin those deaths on the lasting effects of head injuries.
Seau didn’t have any documented concussion injuries during his career; however, he was hurt slightly after driving his SUV over a cliff in 2010 hours after being arrested for allegedly attacking his girlfriend.
He said he fell asleep at the wheel.
“It is incredibly tragic and sad,” the NFL said in a release, the Times reported. “Our prayers are with Junior’s family."
Seau spent the first 13 seasons of his career with the Chargers, and then played three years with the Miami Dolphins before he signed with the New England Patriots in 2006.
He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and six-time first team All-Pro.
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