Junior Seau death: Shrine grows at home of 'hometown hero'
The heaps of flowers and candles continue to grow outside the Oceanside home of Junior Seau, the all-pro linebacker who died Wednesday of what authorities said was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
“Junior, you may have been a Pirate, a Trojan, a Charger, a Dolphin, a Patriot and a Hall of Famer but you are my hometown hero,” one homemade poster read.
Another read: “Rest in peace sweet prince. 55 forever."
The growing shrine outside Seau’s oceanfront home – filled with reference to the teams on which he played, his jersey number, his nickname and the fact that he was a son of San Diego – provided a backdrop to the lines of cars that crawled past the modest, two-story house.
Jarrett McDonald, 47-year-old San Diego resident, said he made the pilgrimage to Seau’s home as a matter of respect.
“I came here to pay my respect to a legend here in San Diego,” McDonald said. He said he was won over as a fan by Seau’s attitude and his enthusiasm.
“A hometown hero you could root for,” McDonald said. “He was an everyday guy, a gentle guy, a giant.”
He added: “I just wish he would have reached out for help.”
Though few details were available, police have confirmed no foul play was suspected and that Seau's girlfriend discovered his body in bed Wednesday morning when she returned from the gym.
Some observers saw similarities between the deaths of Seau and former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest last year.
In a suicide note, Duerson had asked his family to donate his brain to the Boston University School of Medicine. Researchers from that school later determined that Duerson suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions, and that the condition played a role in triggering his depression.
Neighbor Brian Ballis, 50, of Oceanside said he would often see Seau, 43, on the balcony, or in the ocean paddle boarding or surfing.
Two days ago, Ballis saw him playing the ukulele on his balcony.
“He was smiling and happy,” Ballis said, "and looking at the sky and looking at the waves."
Seau's life was not without complications, though.
In 2010, a sport utility vehicle he was driving went over a beachside cliff and crashed. The accident occurred after he was arrested in Oceanside on suspicion of domestic violence. Seau, an All-American at USC and 12-time NFL Pro Bowl linebacker, played 13 seasons with the San Diego Chargers and three seasons with the Miami Dolphins.
He left the game briefly but then played with the New England Patriots for four seasons before calling it quits for good after the 2009 season.
After Seau's death was announced by police Wednesday, the San Diego Chargers urged fans to pray.
"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now," the team said in a statement. "We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family.... The outpouring of emotion is no surprise."
-- Rick Rojas and Niceole Santa Cruz
Photo: San Diego Chargers fan Jerry Lopez looks over a memorial set up in the driveway of Junior Seau's oceanfront home in Oceanside. Credit: Associated Press