Today’s sad news that Junior Seau has died at the age of 43 is another tragic story about the star-crossed San Diego Chargers of 1994, a Super Bowl team that has now seen eight of its players die before reaching the age of 45.
Six months ago we noted that linebacker Lew Bush had died of an apparent heart attack, only six days after his 42nd birthday, making him, at the time, the seventh member of that team to die. Defensive lineman Shawn Lee died last year of a heart attack at 44. Defensive lineman Chris Mims died in 2008 of complications from having an enlarged heart at age 38. Offensive lineman Curtis Whitley died in 2008 of a drug overdose at age 39. Linebacker Doug Miller died in 1998 after he was struck by lightning, at age 28. Running back Rodney Culver died in 1996 in the crash of ValuJet Flight 592, at age 26. Linebacker David Griggs died in 1995 in a car accident at age 28.
The 1994 Chargers were a tough, hard-nosed, physical team, and no one personified those characteristics more than Seau, who was 25 years old, in his fifth NFL season, and emerging as one of the NFL’s great defensive players. Seau would play seven more seasons in San Diego, then three in Miami and four in New England, and by the end of his career he was as universally respected as an NFL player can be.
But in retirement, Seau seemed to lose his way. In 2010 he drove his SUV off a cliff shortly after he was arrested on a charge of spousal battery, and this morning he died, of what police believe was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. Seau exemplified that Chargers team, and he has now joined too many of his teammates in early death.