Friends, family and fans are mourning the sudden death of beloved football player Junior Seau who they say shined as a charity icon off of the field.
The linebacker, who over the course of his 20-year career played for the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots and San Diego Chargers, took his life with a single gunshot to the chest at his home in Oceanside, Calif., on Wednesday morning, according to police.
As mourners try to piece together what led the 43-year-old to commit suicide, they have no questions about how much Seau cared for the underserved people he helped throughout his life.
“It’s just surreal, sad, and hard to understand why this great man has apparently taken his own life,” Chargers fan Robert Macintosh told the Daily Beast. “He cared so much about this community. He loved life, he loved kids and the ocean and so many things, and he really seemed to like being a role model.”
Ranked the 13th largest professional athlete foundation, Seau’s charity was far from a publicity stunt.
Since it was established in 1992, the Junior Seau Foundation has focused on empowering and educating young people with programs that aim to prevent child abuse, drug and alcohol abuse and juvenile delinquency.
The foundation has distributed nearly $4 million to organizations that provide services to children and young adults, which includes more than $800,000 in scholarships and over $330,000 to a program that enables young people to go shopping with an athlete at Christmas.
Along with being an “electrifying athlete,” San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders said that Seau “did so much good in so many ways,” according to the LA Times.
Seau was a champion at fundraising too.
He raised $25,000 to fund a new athletic training facility at Oceanside High School, where he was a star football and basketball player, the Daily Beast reports. For 20 years, he has hosted the Junior Seau Celebrity Golf Classic to support his foundation.
The linebacker was also intent on getting to know those whom he served.
Before the start of his foundation’s scholarship awards last year, he took the time to meet with a troubled high school football player.
“I saw him doing this time and time again,” foundation board member Tom Wornham told the San Diego Union Tribune. “This is what he should be remembered for — not his highs and lows — but the number of kids he mentored and cared about. He did it out of the limelight.”
To help carry on Junior Seau's charitable legacy, learn how you get involved in his foundation here.