Lorenzo Neal reflects on the pressures of being Junior Seau


As a friend of Junior Seau, Lorenzo Neal said that when he learned of Seau’s death today, his reaction was, “We lost a great man.” But as a player who had a lengthy career before recently retiring, Neal had another reaction to the news that Seau’s death was an apparent suicide: Neal understands the pressures that Seau was under.

Neal said in an interview on NBC Sports Talk that Seau wanted badly to please everyone, and he could always do that by playing football well, which came naturally to him. But it was harder for Seau to continue to make a difference when football was over.

“I know Junior — I know the man,” Neal said. “People think, ‘These guys are grown men playing a kid’s game, getting a king’s ransom.’ They don’t understand sometimes the pressure. You’ve got to realize, you walk out on the field, there’s thousands of people watching you in the stands. There’s millions of people watching you at home. And you’re revered as a gladiator. And even if you’re still doing things after football, after your career, there’s no stage like that football field.”

Neal played 17 years in the NFL and retired after the 2008 season, and he said he can understand why it was so difficult for Seau, who played 20 years and retired after the 2009 season, to adjust to live after football.

“When you’re out, it’s not the crash that kills you, it’s the sudden stop,” Neal said. “The first year was tough. You watch the game that you’ve been part of for so long . . . and it’s gone. . . . You’ve been put on a pedestal, and it’s taken from you, your time has expired — your shelf life. And people don’t understand.”

Here’s Neal’s interview:

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33 responses to “Lorenzo Neal reflects on the pressures of being Junior Seau

  1. A sad harsh reality to being a successful well liked pro player which is why the league needs to make sure these guys get the proper support base after retiring

    RIP Seau!

  2. I don’t agree with suicide as an answer to problems, but I can empathize with not adjusting to the everyday mundane after being a star for so long. I wish these men would open up to SOMEONE about their struggles. He isn’t alone by a long shot, but at some point they need to swallow some pride and get help.

  3. RIP Junior.. You will be missed.. I can only imagine life after football, it mush have been really different. I wish Junior would have joined Teddy Bruschi on NFL Live, they couldve done good together. BTW Teddy’s such a complainer.

  4. If it impacted him so much he should have played until he physically couldn’t anymore than become a coach.

  5. I was not happy my 1st year of retirement as a financial advisor and it was the people I missed. I can’t imagine what it’s like for a football player for all the reasons mentioned by Lorenzo Neal. I would believe it’s difficult for someone like him to ask for help as he was so successful based on his own willpower and hard work. Depression just doesn’t operate like that and outside help of some sort even if it’s just talking to someone.

  6. This is something that is pretty rare these days, players that love the game more then life itself. While in this case it ended tragically, you have to admire a man who played the game for passion and love of it all, not for the paycheck. May God bless you Junior.

  7. I remember seeing Junior Seau on the NFL Rocks VHS when I was ten (1992). That was one of my first introductions to football. Such a sad story today.

  8. Its the reality of life. Its not just famous sports stars who’s carriers come to an end that have it rough. its also the person that lost there job because thier company went out of biz, or the person that was injured on the job. it can be the kidd just out of school who can’t find work. People going through divorce. people who have very sick family that are terminal. Life is hard for us all and this is very painfull to see this happen to JR. Many times we just don’t know peoples hardships on the inside. a shocker this was. love your friends and family. have compassion as you never know whom you may help.

  9. This possibility will get swept under the rug because there is no money in it for the family or the trial lawyers. It’ll be because of concussions. Where we are headed is simple, everyone is permitted one concussion. 2nd concussion and you are gone for life. There will be a contract provision that pays you X amount of dollars on your way out the door. Of course, the players will fight it tooth and nail. If the NFL unilaterally decides that you are indeed done after two concussions, watch the lawsuits fly, and it will be the scummy NFL denying them their right to make a living, just like it is the scummy NFL that never did anything about concussions.

  10. This year 10,000 people will die in drunk driving accidents in the US

    Three times that many will die by suicide in this country alone.

    That’s nearly the same amount of women who die from breast cancer each year but no one in the a NFL seems willing to don a colored jersey to draw awareness towards suicide and depression.

    The NFL needs to take the lead in battling the stigma that leads to needless death, both for their own good, but also to set the example for the nation that it’s ok to ask for help and talk about these issues.

    The authorities noted that Seau, who apparently died of a self inflicted gunshot to the chest, did not leave a suicide note.

    Pretty soon they’re going to figure out that WAS the suicide note.

  11. Suicide=a permenant fix to a temporary problem. He could have coached, he could have also tried TV or Radio to keep active in the game. RIP Junior

  12. @warrenmoon – most often the greatest players make terrible coaches, they have a hard time dealing with players who can’t or won’t play and work at the high level that they did. And Seau was one of the greats.

    @joesixpack – excellent point and I was unaware the figures for suicide were that high. Lets hope this will spur the NFL on to take a lead position in bringing those numbers to light, and to help in fighting depression and suicide.

  13. I don’t see it that way. If it is found that Junior had brain damage from his football career then I cut him some slack. If he just killed himself because he is no longer adored and no longer can hear the cheers from fans then I have zero sympathy. Try this logic> How many former US Presidents have committed suicide?

  14. Junior had 3 kids, how bad is this going to mess them up. Did you see his mother today? I loved Junior as a football player, he was a rare talent. But man, what a selfish act to put your loved ones through this and for what? because you were not a “Star” anymore or a “gladiator” as Lorenzo put it?? For such a great guy, this sure appears to be an unbelievazbly selfish act. My heart goes out to his family who will be suffering through this decision for the rest of their lives. RIP Junior, I sure hope you didn’t do this because of the reason Lorenzo suggested, because that’s ridiculous! What a shame.

  15. I respect Lorenzo Neal, and most importantly RIP Junior Seau. But Lorenzo that’s a dumb a** answer! According to that everyone once they retire would be killing themselves.

  16. Seau was the man. I saw him surfing plenty of times in front of his house in O’side. Always had a smile, seemed to be enjoying life. As a Raiders fan, I always had the utmost respect for Junior Seau. He was a beast. RIP Junior

  17. k0mbucha says: A sad harsh reality to being a successful well liked pro player which is why the league needs to make sure these guys get the proper support base after retiring.

    Im an ardent DIE HARD Redskins fan. I also played Linebacker for the most part in the middle(occasionally outside)in HS I LOVED the way JR played the game. In his prime he made Polamaluesque plays from the middle. What exactly is the correlation between this tragedy and how the league takes care of it retired players??? This sadly sounds to me like he couldn’t replace the “high” he got from playing football. To be revered and to all of a sudden your working a mundane job like the rest of us IE selling cars or insurance or selling Programs in your former teams stadium has to be a little more than humbling. The rock band Warrants lead singer recently committed suicide because HE couldn’t replace the “high” of having hit singles and playing stadiums to playing the club circuit. Point is don’t smear a tragedy with negativity by aimlessly pointing fingers in blame. Respect a truly hard situation for his friends and family. The League DOES need to take better care of its retired players… We are 100% in agreement there. Jrs Death is not the forum or podium to take it up
    RIP Junior Seau….. The Claim

  18. Lorenzo thank you again on behalf of Fresno. You are a class act. Your words reflect a great player and a good man. Our prayers go out to the family that is left with this travisty..

  19. This guy was a top,top player, and this is so very sad. I played ‘ball for 11 years, it’s so hard when it’s gone, you miss the adrenaline of playing and the brotherhood of the locker room so much, nothing can replace it, I took up coaching Youth Football which helps as you are still around football but nothing replaces that hit on the field.
    R.I.P Junior, from Redskin Nation.

  20. Stop blaming the NFL for everything, people have to be responsible for themselves.

  21. Junior may not have been perfect, niether was my hero Walter Payton, but you will never convince me he wasn’t a man worthy of respect and admiration. Give me a team of Junior Seau’s and they would never lose a game. This is heartbreaking.

  22. I agree with joetoronto… Post concussion syndrome is not a death sentence by suicide. People can always make better choices.

    But the NFL can and should play a role to change the culture of their sport and the nation.

    Currently talking about depression is viewed as a weakness.

    The NFL can help change that so NOT talking about depression is viewed as a weakness.

  23. Depression, loneliness, cuts across all walks of life. If you know anyone that suffers from depression you understand how difficult it is to watch, nevermind endure.

    Certain people have a genetic predispositon for anxiety and depression. Most of us can get over a particular event, others dwell on the smallest perceived conflict.

    I know someone with post tramautic stress syndrome. It is devastating. They live with it day to day and there are some very bad days. It is a syndrome that affects many of the veterans returning from war. Most people ignore the victims of PTSS. Friend and family move on with their lives and they become increasingly more isolated. Alas, that’s the way the rest of us survive, self preservation.

    What can you do? I appreciate every day and try to be as supportive as I can be.

  24. The long term effect of repeated concussions, the loss of the spotlight, possibly a combination of the two – who knows? We will probably never know why he did what he did.

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