OCEANSIDE, Calif. — Former NFL star Junior Seau was found shot to death at his home Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
Beavers head coach Mike Riley issued a statement regarding the death. Seau played for him when he was the head coach for the San Diego Charges and also at the University of Southern California before that.
“I’m saddened to hear of the loss of Junior Seau," Riley said. "He was the consummate professional on and off the field, and he was a terrific ambassador for the game of football, the city of San Diego and the University of Southern California. I have lost a true friend. My sympathies go out to his friends and family.”
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.
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's death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears player Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.
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 his 1990-2002 stint with his hometown Chargers. He helped 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 the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft out of Southern California, and stayed with the Charges until being traded to the Dolphins. 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.