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Junior Seau's death mourned by Chargers, local high school

May 2, 2012 |  2:11 pm

Click for more photos of Junior Seau

The owner and head coach of the San Diego Chargers grappled with the news Wednesday of the sudden passing of standout linebacker Junior Seau, who died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

"Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today," said Chargers President Dean Spanos in a statement. "Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn't just a football player, he was so much more.... This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine."

"I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior," added Chargers Coach Norv Turner. "He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him."

PHOTOS: Junior Seau | 1969 - 2012

Officials with the Oceanside Unified School District, where Seau attended school, called the death of one of its most famous alumni “a huge loss.” Seau, who graduated from Oceanside High as a muti-sport letterman before moving north to play college football for USC, is a member of the high school's Hall of Fame.

“Today’s passing of former Oceanside High School standout Junior Seau is a huge loss for his family, the Oceanside community and our district,” district officials said in a statement. “Junior personally contributed many positive things to those residing in the North County, most particularly his alma mater, Oceanside High School."

For years, Seau was the epitome of an intimidating linebacker in the NFL, with many Chargers fans affectionately alerting his nickname to “Say-Ow!” His local celebrity increased as he led the Chargers to a Super Bowl appearance in 1995, and he opened a sports bar restaurant a year later.

PHOTOS: Notable deaths of 2012

Seau’s foundation, the Junior Seau Foundation, has also distributed nearly $4 million to organizations providing services to children and young adults, according to its website.

Meantime, NFL players took to Twitter to react to the news of Seau’s passing.

“My prayers and condolences to the family of one of the NFL's greatest linebackers to ever play the game.. Junior Seau.. R.I.P,” wrote New England Patriots wide receiver Chad Ochocinco.

“Watched him as a kid & he represented a lot of great things,” said Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis.

“So saddened by the news of Junior Seau's passing,” said Seattle Seahawks and former USC coach Pete Carroll. “The hearts of the Trojan family go out to his relatives and friends.”

Seau was inducted into the USC Hall of Fame in 2009.


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-- Matt Stevens


Photo: Junior Seau celebrates his team's recovery of a Redskins fumble on Sept.9, 2001. Credit: Vince Compagnone / Los Angeles Times