Footbal great Junior Seau, 43, has reportedly died at his home in San Diego. | AP
Updated: May 2, 2012 3:35PM
OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Police say former NFL star Junior Seau has been found dead in an apparent suicide at his home in Southern California. He was 43.
Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy says Seau’s girlfriend reported finding him unconscious with a gunshot wound to the chest Wednesday. McCoy says lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful.
Seau’s mother appeared before reporters, 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.
Seau was a standout linebacker with the University of Southern California before going to the San Diego Chargers, whom he led to the Super Bowl following the 1994 season.
“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,” the team said in a statement.
Seau remained with the Chargers until 2003 and went on to play with the Miami Dolphins and New England Patriots before retiring after the 2009 season.
In October 2010, Seau survived a 100-foot plunge down a seaside cliff in his SUV, hours after he was arrested for investigation of domestic violence at the Oceanside home he shared with his girlfriend. The woman had told authorities that Seau assaulted her during an argument.
There was no evidence of drugs or alcohol involved in the crash and Seau told authorities he fell asleep while driving. He sustained minor injuries.
Seau spent parts of 20 seasons in the NFL, including 1990-2002 with his hometown Chargers. He led them to their only Super Bowl appearance, was voted to a team-record 12 straight Pro Bowls and was an All-Pro six times.
He amassed 545 tackles, 56½ sacks and 18 interceptions in his career.
“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 last August after the Chargers announced he would be inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame.
Seau was with the Chargers from 1990, when he was the fifth pick overall in the draft out of Southern California, until being traded to the Miami Dolphins after the 2002 season. He came out of retirement a few times to play with the Patriots in search of a Super Bowl ring and was with the team 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.