Updated May 4, 2012 @ 9:03 p.m. ET
The death of former NFL LB Junior Seau has been ruled a suicide, the San Diego County medical examiner's office said Thursday. An autopsy confirmed that Seau had died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
Seau reportedly sent text messages to his ex-wife and four children on Wednesday, saying, "Love you."
Seau's family has decided to donate his brain for research into the effects of concussions on the brain, Chargers chaplain Shawn Mitchell said. He didn't know where the brain would be sent.
Former Bears safety Dave Duerson committed suicide in February 2011, likewise shooting himself in the chest. In a suicide note, Duerson requested that his brain be donated to researchers for study because he believed he was suffering the lingering effects of concussions he had suffered as a player. Boston University's Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy has studied the brains of dozens of former athletes, including Duerson's.
Seau was found dead in his home in Oceanside, Calif., on Wednesday.
Oceanside Police Chief Frank McCoy said Seau's girlfriend reported finding him unconscious, and lifesaving efforts were unsuccessful. A gun was found near the body, but no suicide note.
Seau played in the NFL for 20 years with the Dolphins, Chargers and Patriots. He was a 12-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro player, recording 1,849 tackles and 56½ sacks from 1990-2009, mainly playing in San Diego.
For his play, Seau was also named to the NFL 1990s All-Decade team and was inducted into the Chargers Hall of Fame.
The defender has had issues since retiring from football. In October 2010, he apparently drove his Cadillac Escalade off a cliff near his home in Carlsbad, Calif., after being arrested earlier in the day for felony spousal assault. Seau claimed the event was not a suicide attempt, but rather that he had fallen asleep while behind the wheel.
Unfortunately, this is not the first tragedy that has struck the Chargers' organization. Seau is the eighth member of the 1994 Chargers team that won the AFC to pass away, all before the age of 45. The others who are deceased are Lew Bush, Shawn Lee, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Curtis Whitley and Chris Mims.
The Chargers released a brief statement, saying, "Everyone at the Chargers is in complete shock and disbelief right now. We ask everyone to stop what they're doing and send their prayers to Junior and his family."
The following statement is from Chargers president Dean Spanos:
“I can’t put into words how I’m feeling right now. I’m shocked and devastated. Junior was my friend. We all lost a friend today. Junior was an icon in our community. He transcended the game. He wasn’t just a football player, he was so much more. He was loved by everyone in our family, our organization and throughout the NFL. This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine. My prayers go out to Junior’s family. It’s heartbreaking.”
A statement from Chargers head coach Norv Turner:
“I have no words to describe the passing of Junior Seau. It is a sad, sad day for not only me, but for the whole sports community. I worked with Junior here and later in Miami. I can tell you no one had more character and true leadership ability than Junior. He brought passion to the game of football that was unmatched. His commitment to charitable causes in the community was inspiring. It was an honor to know him. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.”
Dolphins CEO Mike Dee released a statement:
“We are stunned and saddened at the passing of Junior Seau. During his time with the Dolphins he made a unique contribution to the team and the South Florida community.
“Junior was a fierce competitor whose passion and work ethic lifted his teammates to greater heights. His enthusiasm for the game was infectious and he passed that on to everyone who was around him. He loved the game so much, and no one played with more sheer joy.
“Beyond his accomplishments on the field, though, he was as well known for his charitable accomplishments to help those less fortunate than himself, especially kids. Whether it was in San Diego, South Florida, New England or everywhere else in between, Junior loved putting a smile on a child’s face during his “Shop with a Jock” program or during one of his countless school visits. He made a difference to so many people in so many places.
“Junior was one-of-a-kind. The league will never see anyone like him again. He will be missed, and on behalf of the Miami Dolphins we want to extend our condolences to his family.”
The Patriots' organization, the last one Seau played with before he retired, also released a statement:
"We were shocked to hear of the initial reports regarding Junior Seau earlier today and are deeply saddened by the news of his death. We were fortunate to have had Junior join the Patriots in 2006 and are thankful for his many contributions to the team over the next four years. He had a legendary NFL career and his unrivaled passion for the game quickly made him a fan favorite here in New England.
"This is a sad day for the entire Patriots organization, our coaches and his many Patriots teammates. Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his many friends who will mourn this loss.”
NFLPA executive director DeMaurice Smith issued a statement which said, "The NFL Players Association is saddened to hear of the passing of Junior Seau, a terrific player and teammate. The 12-time Pro Bowler achieved a level of success on the field that is unparalleled and his off-the-field service accomplishments are beyond admirable. The All-Decade Team linebacker’s career spanned an incredible 20 seasons, and Junior Seau’s determination and passion for the game will always be remembered in the hearts and minds of the fans. The NFLPA player family today joins with the Seau family to mourn a brother lost too soon."