NFL legend and former linebacker Junior Seau, 43, was found dead in his home in Oceanside, California, Wednesday from an apparent suicide.
Police responded to a 911 call by Seau's girlfriend who found him unconscious with a gunshot wound to his chest. Lifesaving measures were taken, but they were unsuccessful. Police say the shot was fired by a handgun found near the body, and they are investigating Seau's death as a suicide although no note was found.
Following the tragedy, Seau's ex-wife, Gina, told the L.A. Times he sent her and their children a text message, ending with "I love you" just one day before he died. Seau leaves behind four children; three with Gina and an additional child from another relationship.
During an emotional news conference outside Seau's home, his grief-stricken mother thanked people for their support and for showing their love for her son. "Take me, leave my son," she cried.
Seau was the fifth of six children by his mother and father.
"Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family," the San Diego Chargers said in a statement posted on their site.
Seau was the fifth overall pick of the 1990 NFL draft, chosen by the San Diego Chargers. He played in the NFL for 20 seasons, 13 of which were with the Chargers.
Even before his death, Seau was regarded as one of the NFL's greatest players. He was selected to 12 Pro Bowls and was named first-team All-Pro six times, writes NFL.com.
Seau "retired" from football twice; the first time in 2006 from the San Diego Chargers, and after returning a few days later, he played until the end of the 2009 season when he retired permanently. In addition to his contributions to the NFL, Seau opened a San Diego restaurant in 1996 and started a charitable foundation in his name benefitting San Diego youth in 1992.
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(Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)