Junior Seau's career, San Diego impact, CTE struggles profiled in new ESPN documentary

Posted at 11:52 AM, Sep 20, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-20 17:25:39-04

(KGTV) — Junior Seau graduated from Oceanside High school back in 1987. He earned fame and fortune with the NFL, but he never forgot where he came from and he always gave back to this community.

The former Chargers linebacker is a San Diego Icon. A beloved sports star who never met a stranger. 

"He had a unique ability to connect with people off the field in a way that was as powerful as his play on the field," Chris Fore, a Chargers fan interviewed in the documentary, says.

For the first time, family and friends are sharing candid interviews in a new documentary with ESPN's 30 for 30 film series.

RELATED: Junior Seau's sister raises awareness for CTE

"He knew how to react and respond to people to make them feel special," Seau's daughters, Sydney, says in the film. "It's like everyone was his best friend.

"He was just larger than life and I'm just sitting there trying to eat my pizza and I'm like, I'm exhausted from school I don't know how you're doing this cause you are always on," she added.

No one seemed to know the pain he was hiding, but teammates say the suicide of another player was a defining moment.  

On May 2, 2012, at the age of 43, Seau shot himself in the chest in his Oceanside home, shattering his family, friends, and fans.

RELATED: Junior Seau Foundation pledges $250K to support brain injury research at UC San Diego

It would later be determined that the legendary player suffered from CTE and depression caused by countless blows to the head.

"But Junior, because he was such a giver couldn't about face and ask and put that handout and seek that assistance," former teammate Marcellus Wiley told filmmakers.

In a class action lawsuit on behalf of players who suffered concussion-related brain trauma, Seau's family was eligible for a $4 million payout from the NFL. But his parents never pursued it.

Instead, his ex-wife, Gina, their children, and Betty Hoffman, the former head of his foundation, are suing the league separately. 

Today, Seau's sister, Mary, runs a foundation to promote awareness about CTE and traumatic brain injuries.

"He was humble enough to always give his all in every aspect of his life," Seau's daughter says.

"Seau" will air Thursday on ESPN's subscription channel, ESPN+.


San Diego County Crisis Line: 1-888-724-7240

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255