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Junior Seau, son of the Territory, dead at 43

“We have lost a Samoan brother... a football icon... a pioneer”
fili@samoanews.com

Those who knew former NFL pro football star Junior Seau were shocked to hear on television or read via the the worldwide web the tragic death of a native of American Samoa who played in the National Football League for 20 years. Seau is among the most well known Samoans in the NFL.

Seau, who played for the San Diego Chargers for 13 years,  was found shot to death at his home yesterday morning in what police said appeared to be a suicide. He was 43, reports The Associated Press along with the rest of the national news media. (See separate AP story in today’s edition for more details)

Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy is quoted by the national media saying that 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 to whom the gun was registered.

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, who has been a close friend to Seau, expressed condolences immediately upon receiving word about Seau’s passing.

“It is a very sad time for not only the national sports world but also for our Polynesian community,” said Faleomavaega yesterday afternoon.  “We have lost a Samoan brother who was an icon in football and a pioneer for many of our Polynesian sons who are in the National Football League today.”

He said Seau was not only recognized as an athlete and an entertainer but as a humanitarian and supporter for those who needed help the most. 

“Even as he continued to succeed in football, Junior worked tirelessly to help troubled youth and those in need,” he said in a news release. “I recall attending a White House ceremony in 2005 when President George W. Bush awarded Junior with the President’s Volunteer of the Year Award for his work in helping the youth through the Junior Seau Foundation.”

Since its establishment about 10 years ago, the Foundation has distributed nearly $4 million to organizations providing services to children and young adults.  This amount includes funds designated to an endowment fund which benefits, in perpetuity, programs supporting youth with the desire but not the means to improve their lives, according to the Foundation’s website. Also, included is over $800,000 in scholarships distributed through the Scholars of Excellence program and over $330,000 towards Junior’s Shop With A Jock® program.

As word of Seau’s death spread across the country and around the world, people posted messages on the Foundation’s Facebook page

“Junior you touched so many lives in a positive way and did so much for San Diego and us here in Oceanside. As a long time fan I will remember the good times you gave us,” wrote David Stratton on the the Foundation’s Facebook page.

Also posted on the page was a message from the Foundation: “Junior Seau was a San Diego original. While he was most known as one of the best linebackers of all time, his passion on the football field was matched by his commitment to San Diego, and particularly its children. All of us at the Junior Seau Foundation are devastated by the loss of our founder, leader and friend.”

The Foundation’s mission is: “To educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complimentary educational programs.

According to the Congressman, Seau  supported and contributed to the Samoan community in Southern California and was so popular that he even had a television show on a national network channel. 

“Junior was an ambassador for Asian and Pacific Americans and through his success he was able to broaden the public’s understanding and appreciation of our Polynesian cultures,” he said. “I pray that God comforts those who are mourning the passing of a great Samoan warrior.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Junior’s parents and family during this tragic moment.”

Rep. Alexander Eli Jennings met Seau in May 2005 thru Faleomavaega, who invited the Swains Island lawmaker to attend the White House celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Jennings was in the nation’s capital at the time for meetings.

Seau “was an amazing man. Just talking to him inspired me,” Jennings said yesterday afternoon in a phone interview. “He was so kind, humble and nice. I was totally honored to have met him. His accomplishments in life, including being a great football player and his non-profit foundation, are a great representation of all Samoans worldwide.”

Jennings said he was “shocked” to learn of Seau’s death. He learned the sad news while at a local restaurant yesterday morning and CNN reported on the matter. “Samoans all over the world have lost a great person, who carried himself very well,” said Jennings.

Seau’s uncle, Legae’e said the family in American Samoa was informed yesterday morning by relatives on the mainland about Seau’s passing.

“My nephew is a really good person, he is very humble. He doesn’t smoke or drink alcohol,” said Mauga in a telephone interview yesterday afternoon. “He doesn't talk much but he cares alot about people.”

Mauga said he spent three nights at Seau’s home in California last year while he was on the mainland for a golf tournament. He also said that many of the local golfers, who traveled to the mainland, wanted to meet Seau, who was in Idaho at the time.

“Junior called from Idaho for me to wait for him and not to return to American Samoa yet,” Mauga recalled. “When he returned to California, I spent three nights with him, talking about a lot of things and one issue raised with him was to bring his Foundation to the territory, to be set up here and help our people.”

At the time, Seau was ready to be inducted into the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame, and Mauga suggested that Seau bring along many of his fellow Hall of Famers for the Foundation visit to the territory.

“I told him to bring the members of the Hall of Fame to do a football clinic as well as to bring football equipment for local high schools,” he recalled. “I also asked to him to come home and make an investment for the people of American Samoa. I suggested that he look at investment in the old Rainmaker Hotel, which can create more jobs for his people.”

“An investment to the people and government of American Samoa would be his contribution that would live on in memory,” he said. “But sadly all of these things will never happen. He has passed away suddenly.”

Junior Seau is the son of Tiaina Seau, Sr. of Aunu’u and Luisa Mauga of Aoa. He was raised in American Samoa as a child until his family moved to California, where he attended Oceanside High School. (Oceanside is a sister-city of American Samoa)

After graduation he played for the University of Southern California.  In the 1990 NFL Draft, Junior was drafted in the First Round and was the 5th Overall Pick by the San Diego Chargers.

He played in 12 consecutive Pro Bowls from 1991-2002 and was selected All-Pro 6 times in his career.  He led the Chargers to their first ever Super Bowl appearance in 1995 and he was a member of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII.  In his NFL career, Junior played for the San Diego Chargers, Miami Dolphins, and the New England Patriots, according to information provided by Faleomavaega.

Junior Seau was honored at the USC Spring Game two weeks ago as one of the Trojans' legends. [Photo: Tim Lutes, USCFootball.com, 04/14/12, Courtesy Barry Markowitz]


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