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Jr. Seau was a great player who was temperamental. One of my clients, the NCAA, advised me not to interview him since he had a problematic history. The result was in my mind is that he was largely misunderstood - Ângulo ótimo photo





James Loving/National Radio Text Service



Junior Seau had a complicated past and a reputation of someone that was difficult to get along with. When I mentioned my intention to produce a story on him to the head producer at the NCAA network he wasn't in favor of my idea and preferred for me not to do it, SO... READ ON.....


Sunday, August 30, 2015


When covering sports athletes there are some good moments as well as bad. Some stories one can never forget since they touch a journalist's nerve which relates to their own background.

Earlier this month Jr. Seau received a well deserved induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. Seau was a tough hard nosed player that left everything on the field so much so that he ended up taking his own life which some attribute to brain damage resulting from numerous concussions he suffered during his 20 year NFL, three year college and his high school sports career.

A 20 year NFL career is amazing given the linebacker position he played where he is likely to be hit on every play. It also is astonishing since five years of active play is a major threshold for an NFL player to achieve since most are out of the league due to injuries or lack of talent. The average NFL career is 4.5 years.

While Seau was a junior at the University of Southern California I was a field producer for an NCAA show College Sports USA. I was free to choose whomever I wanted to do a story on but there were some guidelines which were they should be students in good standing academically and morally with a clean history, be an academic all-American that played sports or a human interest story regarding someone that overcame a tragedy and continued to play sports.

Seau had a complicated past and a reputation of someone that was difficult to get along with therefore I mentioned my intention to produce a story on him to the head producer at the network. They weren't in favor of my idea and preferred for me not to do it. The other problem was the question, could I do it, since Seau was known for not being cooperative in doing interviews.

I had no idea what his history was except that he was a great player but I was also familiar with the fact that he would be difficult and most likely would not agree to do an interview.

Seau was Samoan and did not learn to speak English until he was seven years old he did not come from a candy ass background.

At his home in San Diego, California, Seau and his three brothers had to sleep in the family's one-car garage. He excelled in high school athletics as lettering in three sports, football, basketball and track and field. He was also named to California's all-academic team with a 3.6 grade-point average but then came about a major change.

After graduating from high school, Seau attended the University of Southern California (USC). He had to sit out his freshman season because he got only a 690 on his SAT college entrance exam, which was 10 points short of USC's minimum score for freshman eligibility.

Seau told Sports Illustrated: "I was labeled a dumb jock. I went from being a four-sport star to an ordinary student at USC. I found out who my true friends were. Nobody stuck up for me-not our relatives, best friends or neighbors. There's a lot of jealousy among Samoans, not wanting others to get ahead in life, and my parents got an earful at church: 'We told you he was never going to make it.'" This prompted him to apologize to his coaches, teachers, and principal at Oceanside High.

He lettered in his final two seasons at the University of Southern California in 1988 and 1989, posting 19 sacks in 1989 en route to a unanimous first-team All-American selection and that was the criteria for me to be interested in producing his story.

Following the 1989 Rose Bowl game which Southern Cal won, I entered the team's locker room and saw this (to me) stocky thick kid with massive shoulders. Since they won it would be more likely that he would be in a good mood and cooperative.

I approached him, introduced myself and explained what my intentions were and that the story was for the NCAA. He grimaced a bit and gave me the once over look while contemplating his decision.

Seau wasn't known as a warm fuzzy kind of guy. He had a very stern expression on his face. I looked him straight in the eye and he then agreed to do the interview. As he spoke his emotions indicated that he was an individual that had a life in which he was misunderstood which was something that I could relate to.

My insight was from my personal background of being raised in a tough, dangerous mixed race neighborhood where many of the kids did jail time. Some of those kids were what we referred to as, wimps and were unworthy of our attention. One of those kids, who was Irish, later murdered someone and he was put to death died in the electric chair for his crime.

Three others (two German and one Irish) murdered a man and were given sentences of life in prison. Two were eventually released and one remains. Of the three the one still in prison was the nicest guy of the three who obviously went wrong. When I was a sports journalist for the Junior High School newspaper he was a player on the football team and would tell me what happened in games that I missed.

Somehow I related Seau to Daugherty since I saw in Seau that he was a nice guy that could have gone wrong but his pursuit of excellence in sports gave him a lifeline to be successful. Daugherty abandoned sports.

Year after year Seau put up impressive stats. One of his highlights was when he led his San Diego Chargers team to a championship appearance in Super Bowl XXIX. In one of the greatest games in his career, he recorded 16 tackles in the 1994 AFC Championship Game while playing with a pinched nerve in his neck in a 17-13 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. In 2002, his final year with the Chargers, he logged a then-career low 84 tackles and missed his final Pro Bowl with an ankle injury. Yes he left it all on the field during his 20 year NFL career.

Off the field Seau instituted programs to help youths. In 1992, Seau created the Junior Seau Foundation with the mission to educate and empower young people through the support of child abuse prevention, drug and alcohol awareness, recreational opportunities, anti-juvenile delinquency efforts and complementary educational programs.

On May 2, 2012, Seau's girlfriend found him dead with a gunshot wound to the chest at his home in Oceanside, California. He left no suicide note, but he did leave a paper in the kitchen of his home with lyrics he scribbled from his favorite country song, "Who I Ain't". The song, co-written by his friend Jamie Paulin-a Nashville-based songwriter-describes a man who regrets the person he has become.

There was speculation that Seau suffered brain damage due to CTE, a condition traced to concussion-related brain damage with depression as a symptom, as dozens of deceased former NFL players were found to have suffered from CTE.

Seau's family donated his brain tissue to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, part of the NIH; other candidates included the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy and the Brain Injury Research Institute. Citing the Seau family's right to privacy, NIH did not intend to release the findings.

On January 10, 2013, Seau's family released the NIH's findings that his brain showed definitive signs of CTE.

Russell Lonser of the NIH coordinated with three independent neuropathologists, giving them unidentified tissue from three brains including Seau's. The three experts along with two government researchers arrived at the same conclusion. The NIH said the findings on Seau were similar to autopsies of people "with exposure to repetitive head injuries."

On January 23, 2013, the Seau family sued the NFL over the brain injuries suffered by Seau over his career. In 2014, his family continued to pursue the lawsuit while opting out of the NFL concussion lawsuit's proposed settlement, which was initially funded with $765 million.

Seau was a 10-time All-Pro, 12-time Pro Bowl selection, and named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade Team. He is more than worthy of his induction to the NFL Hall of Fame as he paid a heavy price for his hard work which eventually led to him ending his life at the young age of only 43.


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