Junior Seau, a homegrown superstar who was a fist-pumping, emotional leader as a linebacker for the San Diego Chargers for 13 years, was found shot to death at his home in Oceanside, Calif., on Wednesday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43.
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. Police said no suicide note was found and they didn’t immediately know who the gun was registered to.
A ferocious tackler, he’d leap up, pump a fist and kick out a leg after dropping a ballcarrier or quarterback.
“It’s a sad thing. It’s hard to understand,” said Bobby Beathard, who as Chargers general manager took Seau out of Southern California with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 draft.
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“He was really just a great guy. If you drew up a player you’d love to have the opportunity to draft and have on the team and as a teammate, Junior and Rodney (Harrison), they’d be the kind of guys you’d like to have.”
Seau’s mother, Luisa, said her son gave no indication of a problem when she spoke to him by phone earlier this week.
“I don’t understand … I’m shocked,” she said.
“He’s joking to me, he called me a ‘homegirl,’ ” she said.
Seau led the Chargers to Super Bowl XXIX following the 1994 season.
Seau is the eighth member of that team to die. Among the others to die is former Washington High School in Parkland and Washington State linebacker Lew Bush, who died of a heart attack in December at age 42.
Seau’s death follows the suicide last year of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who also shot himself in the chest.
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 New York Jets waived backup defensive lineman Ropati Pitoitua, who became expendable after the team drafted North Carolina’s Quinton Coples with the No., 16 overall pick.
The 6-foot-8 Pitoitua, a former Clover Park High and Washington State star, had 19 tackles and a sack last season after returning from a torn Achilles tendon in the 2010 exhibition season.
Former Arizona State linebacker Vontaze Burfict, the Pacific-10 Conference defensive freshman of the year in 2009, was one of 14 to sign as undrafted free agents with the Bengals. … Tampa Bay signed paralyzed defensive tackle Eric LeGrand, the Rutgers player who was hurt against Army on Oct. 16, 2010. He played a Rutgers for new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano. … The Bears agreed to a four-year contract with second-round draft pick Alshon Jeffery, a receiver from South Carolina. … Torrin Tucker, who started 24 games on the offensive line for the Cowboys from 2003-05, faces felony drug charges after he tried to sell drugs to an undercover officer at a Tampa, Fla., strip club. … Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton is toning down criticism of a last-minute Republican Vikings stadium alternative after Republicans agreed the new facility should have a roof. He originally called the proposal “a hare-brained scheme.”