Finding Hope Before Suicide

Selected by the San Diego Chargers with the fifth overall pick in the 1990 NFL Draft, expectations were extraordinarily high for Junior Seau, but no one knew whether the 1989 All-American USC prospect would actually meet them. The intense, passionate play Seau displayed reflected his love for football and transformed the San Diego native into an NFL superstar who went above and beyond those expectations.

The “Tasmanian Devil” made 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1991 to 2002, eight of which Seau was a first team selection for. Winning the 1992 NFL Defensive Player of the Year award in only his third season was an amazing accomplishment, but no one anticipated anything less from the unfairly talented, second-generation Samoan athlete. That same year, Seau established the Junior Seau Foundation, which (according to the foundation’s website) has since given almost four million dollars to other non-profit organizations with programs that support struggling youth. An obscene, career-high 155 tackles easily earned him the 1994 AFC Player of the Year award and propelled the Chargers that season to their very first, and so far only, Super Bowl appearance. Also in 1994, Seau received the Walter Payton Man of the Year award, which rewards players for outstanding volunteer work.

After spending 13 seasons as a Charger, he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2003 and was released in March 2006 after missing a combined 17 games in 2004 and 2005. Seau retired on August 14, 2006; only to come back four days later as a New England Patriot. Seau stayed with the Patriots from 2006-2009, acting as a defensive enforcer for the legendary 2007 Patriots squad that suffered their only loss in Super Bowl XLII. In January 2010, Seau “hung it up” for good.

Outside of football, Seau had many different business ventures, including a clothing line named Say Ow Gear and a restaurant called Seau’s The Restaurant. According to U-T San Diego, the restaurant was his most successful venture. Even after retirement, Seau continued his abundant volunteer work in San Diego County. The fearsome linebacker also fathered three children during his marriage to his ex-wife, Gina, from 1991 to 2002.

To the public, No. 55 was an upbeat “golden boy” who was living the American Dream, yet still chose to put others ahead of himself through his charity work. This perception amplified the shock that Seau’s suicide brought to the community and the football world on May 2, 2012. Seau also may have been a man of faith since the All-Pro actually “led the crowd in prayer at one point” during his Chargers Hall of Fame induction speech and also said, “Work today, build for tomorrow and pray for the rest,” according to Kevin Acee from U-T San Diego. Despite his image and possible faith, his self-inflicted gunshot to the chest signaled that some deep spiritual warfare had taken place within.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, former teammate Gary Plummer said that Seau was “facing demons for at least 18 months.” Plummer later stated, “There is no exit strategy from the NFL…it’s ‘you’re done.’” The Associated Press mentioned that Gina Seau said her ex-husband suffered numerous concussions during his career even though Seau never had a documented history of them. In October 2010, he survived a 100 foot plunge down a cliff inside his vehicle just hours after he was arrested for domestic violence due to allegations his girlfriend made.

It is obvious that heavy issues plagued Seau and, sadly, he was unable to overcome them despite his possible belief in Christ. When times are good, as Christians we are quick to thank God. However, when the tough times become overwhelming, it is easy to lose faith and shoulder the burden on our own. Some of us even lash out at God and wonder why He does not help. Some blame Him for everything that has gone wrong. Isaiah 41:10 tells us, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with My victorious right hand.” We read in Psalm 9:9, “The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.” Both verses remind us that no problem is too big or small for the creator of the universe to handle, and that we need to simply give our troubles to God while having faith that His will be done.

Jeremiah 29:11 reads, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’” God has a “good” plan for the life of each believer.  However, in order for that plan to be carried out, God often puts us through rough trials in order to build character and faith, while instilling new values within us as we learn life lessons. These tough times in life are essentially “growing pains” in one’s faith walk. Each growing pain we go through creates a “growth spurt” in our relationship with God. And, the more we grow in Christ, the closer we become to realizing our divine purpose.

Psalm 18:2 reads, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.”
Leaning on the Lord was the only way that the Apostle Paul found the power to endure the multiple problems he faced (2 Corinthians 11:21-30). This scripture tells us that we will face situations that we cannot handle, which is exactly why we need to rely on God for strength. Only through Him can we persevere, because God can conquer all problems! As for Junior Seau, only he truly knows exactly what he was going through mentally when he made the decision to take his own life. Thankfully, because of Jesus, none of us ever have to reach such a point of hopelessness and despair. Let us cling to the truth of Philippians 4:13, “For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

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