According to the Suicide Awareness Voices of Education, suicide takes the lives of nearly thirty thousand Americans each year. One person dies due to suicide every 16.2 minutes; 6 people will take their own lives each hour. Over half of all suicides are completed with a firearm, and suicide is most common in the spring. Both of these are true for my favorite football player of all time; Junior Seau took his life with a bullet to the chest on May 2, 2012.
On January 19, 1969, Junior Seau was born in San Diego, California. The fifth of six children, Seau was born Tiaina Baul Seau Jr. At an early age, his family moved to American Samoa, but they returned to the mainland prior to him entering grade school. He did not speak English until the age of seven. Seau attended Oceanside High School, where he played linebacker and tight end for the Pirate football team. He was named CIF San Diego Section Defensive Player of the Year, all-state and USA Today All-USA honorable mention, as well as All-North County and Avocado League Offensive Player of the Year. In addition, he was consensus San Diego Section Basketball Player of the Year and a letterman in track and field. He was named to California’s all-academic team with a 3.6 grade-point average. He continued his football career at the University of Southern California. Seau first made his name as a terrorizing linebacker for the USC Trojans. After a slow start to his career due in part to academic concerns, Seau roared onto the scene in 1988 and 1989, collecting 107 tackles and 33 for loss. His '89 season was one of the best in USC's distinguished defensive history as he totaled 19 sacks and 27 tackles-for-loss on his way to All-American honors. He was named the 1989 Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year.
Seau's time at USC wasn't just about numbers, though; during his two-year career the Trojans amassed a 19-4-1 record, won two Pac-10 titles and played in back-to-back Rose Bowls.
Seau's legacy lives on at USC in multiple ways, most substantially via the jersey number he wore for the Trojans, No. 55. Though not the founding member of the "55 Club", Seau's success helped turn the jersey number into a Trojan tradition. Seau became a member of the Trojan "Ring of Honor" at the L.A. Coliseum where he had first made his name.
Junior was selected in the 1st round, 5th over-all, in the 1990 NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers. After 13 seasons as a Charger, he was traded to Miami Dolphins on April 6, 2003, and released in March of 2006. In August of the same year, Seau signed a 1-day contract with the San Diego Chargers to retire from the NFL as a Charger, only to sign 4 days later with the New England Patriots. Junior Seau officially retired from the NFL on January 13, 2010, after 20 NFL seasons.
Seau was the team leader and the heart and soul of the Chargers’ defense from 1990-02. His stellar playing career was highlighted by 12 consecutive Pro Bowl selections, the most by any player in Chargers history and tied for the third-longest streak ever. Seau’s career statistics are beyond question. He appeared in 268 regular season games, including a team-record 200 as a Charger which ties him with Russ Washington for the second-most in team history. During 13 seasons in San Diego, Seau racked up 1,396 tackles, 45.5 sacks and 14 interceptions. He was the team leader in tackles in eight of his 13 seasons, averaging 116 tackles a year. Seau led the Bolts in tackles in 84 of the 200 games he played for the team and he recorded 10-or-more tackles 47 times. Among his many honors, Seau was a first-team All-Pro pick by the Associated Press six times during his career (1992-94, 1996, 1998, 2000) and a second-team selection on two occasions (1995, 1999). He was named the Chargers’ Most Valuable Player a team-record six times (1993, 1997-2001) and the Defensive Player of the Year twice (1998-99). He also was voted the Chargers’ Most Inspirational Player in 1997 and…