Seau’s death ruled suicide; family will allow researchers to study brain

Originally posted 5/2/12 at 2:16 pm ET; latest update 5/4/12 at 7:52 am ET

Former Chargers, Dolphins, and Patriots linebacker Junior Seau was found dead at his home in Oceanside, California Wednesday morning, at the age of 43.

Police investigated Seau's death as a suicide, and the autopsy performed on Thursday confirmed it. Bennett Omalu, the forensic pathologist who made the initial discovery of CTE, participated in the autopsy, and on Thursday evening Seau's family announced they would allow CTE researchers to study Junior's brain.

Drafted fifth overall in the 1990 Draft, Seau played 20 seasons - 13 in San Diego,  three in Miami, and four in New England.  His best seasons came with Chargers, however, and often, his best games came against the Denver Broncos.

Seau's apparent suicide comes only weeks after former Falcons safety Ray Easterling died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Easterling had been diagnosed with dementia; fellow ex-NFL players Andre Waters, Shane Dronett, Dave Duerson, and Tom McHale were all found after their own suicides to have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative brain disease caused by multiple head injuries.

Duerson also died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, the method chosen so as to preserve his brain for CTE research.

The USC alum is the eighth member of the 1994 Chargers Super Bowl team to have passed, including fellow linebackers Lew Bush, David Griggs and David Miller, RB Rodney Culver, C Curtis Whitley, DE Chris Mims, and DT Shawn Lee.

Following Seau's death, the Chargers released a brief statement:

Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.

On Thursday night, it was announced that 

Here's an interview from Seau in which he discusses his career and foundation:

Via former Broncos and current Saints lineman Eric Olsen:

Wow this is a tough one. When I was a frosh in HS Junior Seau worked the Jay Fiedler Football camp, and at the end of one of the days he challenged any1 to a 1 on 1. Being one of the 'big' kids, I was volunteered by my buddies and went up in front of the whole camp to face this monster of a man.

Shaking in my cleats, he gave me a wink before a coach gave the cadence. He let me pancake him, and he sold it too. I can't even tell you how good I felt at that moment; it changed me forever.

The whole camp cheered for me, a chubby kid that didn't know if he even liked football. From then on I was addicted, all thanks 2 this 10 time all-pro that felt like making some snot-nosed kid's day. Doesn't seem like much but it meant a lot to me. Sorry for the essay, just had to share. RIP Junior I'll never forget what you did for me. (Edited for punctuation, h/t Justin Weber)

John Elway via Twitter:

I had the pleasure of playing against Junior for many years. He played the game the way it was meant to be played. We shared a lot of laughs from our AFC West battles when I saw Junior before he was inducted into the Chargers HOF in November. Junior was a true competitor and a special player. My heartfelt condolences go out to the Seau family.

Chargers owner Dean Spanos:

I can't put into words how I'm feeling right now. I'm shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior's family. It's heartbreaking.

John Fox:

Junior was an incredible leader who played with great passion. Coaching on a defense that included him has been one of the most memorable experiences of my career. We had a great relationship. I have an enormous amount of respect for him as a player and a person.

I offer my sympathies to his family.

Peyton Manning:

When I first got into the league in 1998, the two most dominating defenders I played against were Junior Seau and Bruce Smith. Junior was truly a once-in-a-lifetime player. I remember how many times we would be getting ready to play him and the Chargers and someone would say, ‘This is a blitz here.’ And I would say, ‘That’s not a blitz; that’s just Junior Seau smelling something and going after it.’ He was very difficult to play against because his instincts would always lead him to the right place on defense—or the wrong place for the offense. He and Ray Lewis are the two best linebackers I’ve ever played against, and I know many others would feel the same way.

I had the great pleasure of playing against Junior, but I also had the honor of playing with Junior in a couple of Pro Bowls. Just in those shorts weeks of Pro Bowl practices, nobody had more passion for the game than Junior Seau. His energy and enthusiasm—you could tell how it spread back to his teammates with the Chargers, Dolphins and Patriots. I also got to attend some charity functions with him and I saw how philanthropic he was in giving his time and money to several worthy causes.

To me, Junior had a quality of making the people around him feel special and comfortable. It didn’t matter what environment he was in—he had just a great energy and an aura about him that people gravitated to. That’s why he was such a great leader. I always felt good being around him. He was truly a one-of-a-kind football player and a one-of-a-kind person just because of his passion.

I was honored to call Junior a friend and I was deeply saddened by the news of his passing. I will truly miss him, and I know a lot of people are going to miss him. My heartfelt condolences go out to his family.

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