Junior Seau: Bitter Endgame

Source: Jill Lieber Steeg / North County Times

Junior Seau’s transition from the NFL into the real world proved to be difficult. For his entire life, beginning with his childhood on Oceanside’s Zeiss Street, where he and his brothers shared a bedroom in a converted one-car garage, Seau had a singular focus: being a great football player.

For more than two decades, first at USC and then in the NFL, he had lived a highly structured and emotionally charged football player’s life. His days, his weeks, his months and his years all revolved around football. Every moment, every task, every decision was choreographed for him by his coaches — training, games, meetings, playbooks, film study, medical treatments, meals, bus rides, plane flights, curfews and sleep. Every game, every training session, represented instant gratification — he immediately knew if he had succeeded or failed.

He adored the camaraderie, and forged deep bonds with his coaches and teammates. The adulation and the euphoria he felt from playing in packed college and NFL stadiums, from walking out of the locker room and hearing the click of his cleats on the cement hallways to blasting out of the end zone tunnel and breathlessly racing to the 50-yard line, was beyond compare. The money he made — which allowed him, and all of those he supported, to have wonderful lifestyles — was off the charts.

Seau was completely unprepared for retirement’s physical, psychological, emotional and financial toll. Instead of having open-ended days in which he could just relax and enjoy life, he started to question his identity; his purpose in life; his shortcomings as a husband, a boyfriend and a father, and his worth as a man.

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