Junior Seau's Legacy and What He Meant to NFL Fans

Joshua MoeschlCorrespondent IIIMay 3, 2012

SAN DIEGO - AUGUST 14:  Junior Seau speaks during a press conference to announce his retirement from the NFL on August 14, 2006 at the Chargers Training Camp in San Diego, California. The 37-year-old Seau is retired from the NFL after 12 Pro-Bowl Appearances, 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and three years with the Miami Dolphins.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Sadly, one of football's greatest defensive players lost his life on Wednesday. In an apparent suicide, Seau died of a gunshot wound to the chest. There was no suicide note, but a handgun was found near Seau's body.

Growing up a football fan, I always knew the name Junior Seau. I didn't grasp who he was or what he did until later in my adolescence, but that Chargers No. 55 jersey was a recognizable sight. 

Seau was drafted in 1990 by San Diego, making the hometown hero the fifth overall pick. Seau patrolled the defensive backfield for the Chargers for 13 seasons, and made 12 consecutive Pro Bowls. 

Something the average NFL fan can appreciate is the work Junior did in his community. A kid from Oceanside, Calif., Seau never forgot his roots. He formed the Junior Seau Foundation in 1992, an organization dedicated to helping San Diego-area youth get prepared for all of life's many challenges.

A lock for the Hall of Fame, Seau was one of the game's fiercest competitors, paving the way for players like Ray Lewis. Junior was an in-your-face type of linebacker and was always around the ball. While he was known for being incredibly intense on the field, he was a gentleman off it.

A well-spoken, intelligent man, Seau was an inspiration for many of us. He is a father of three children and will surely be missed.

He epitomized what it meant to play hard-nosed defense in the NFL. He was the standard for which all other defensive players of his time were compared. We shouldn't forget that he was the most dominant defensive player in the game at his peak.

OCEANSIDE, CA - MAY 2:  A wellwisher kneels next to a makeshift shrine in front of Junior Seau's beach home May 2, 2012 in Oceanside, California. Seau, who played for various NFL teams including the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins and New England Patri
Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

One thing that will be considered over the coming weeks and months is the manner in which Seau passed: the self-inflicted gunshot to the chest. With no suicide note left, we are left to wonder if maybe Seau was suffering from some type of depression stemming from multiple concussions. Former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson shot himself in the chest and left a note asking that his brain be donated for research.

If it is revealed through a brain study that Junior Seau suffered from severe brain injuries, it only enhances the disturbing trend of former athletes who have sustained some type of repeated head trauma. Science is just scratching the surface of what type of depression and mental issues concussions can cause long term.

We are losing athletes and former athletes alike much more often than we should. If anything positive at all can come from losing Junior Seau at such a young age, let's hope it involves helping determine exactly the effects of concussions and how we can begin preventing this type of mental illness of sorts from becoming an epidemic among our most beloved heroes. 

Junior Seau will be missed. He was a great player and a great human being. He was just 43 years old.