The news, understandably, came as a surprise for many.
Former USC linebacker and 12-time NFL Pro Bowler Junior Seau was found dead in his Oceanside, Calif., home Wednesday morning, according to multiple reports, the result of an apparent suicide.
Police received a 911 call from Seau's girlfriend at 9:35 a.m., reporting a possible suicide. Seau died as the result of a self-inflicted gun shot wound at his beachfront home and police have been investigating since with an autopsy scheduled for tomorrow.
For Southern California, this is a rather startling development. Seau had grown up in San Diego, played at Oceanside High School, attended USC and then played 13 seasons with the Chargers before retiring after the 2009 season. He was a fixture in a community that stretches down the coast from L.A. to Chula Vista. He is a member of the Trojans' athletic hall-of-fame. His résumé, for the most part, speaks for itself.
"We are tremendously saddened to hear this news and our hearts go out to his family and children," USC athletic director Pat Haden said in a statement earlier today. "Junior Seau was one of the greatest legends in USC football history. He will always be remembered by USC as the original No. 55."
Head coach Lane Kiffin also released a statement.
"This is a very sad day," he said. "The USC football program and the entire Trojan Family extends our condolences to Junior's family. He was one of the greatest Trojans of all-time. Our team and fans were very fortunate to see him just a couple of weeks ago at our Spring Game at the Coliseum. He will be deeply missed."
For USC, the No. 55 legacy is an obvious one, but an important one. Seau was the first famed linebacker to sport No. 55 while playing for the Trojans. It begun a two-decade-long tradition of giving the number to the team's best linebacker -- similar in the way in which Syracuse once gave the No. 44 jersey to its top running backs. Other No. 55s that succeeded Seau included Willie McGinest, Markus Steele, Chris Claiborne and Keith Rivers. Currently, sophomore Lamar Dawson sport the number, as well.
Over his time with 'SC during the 1988 and 1989 seasons, USC went 19-4-1 and he was named the Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year in '89.
For now, this is about a man who passed away all too young. He was just 43 years old. He retired about two years ago. Because of the number of CTEs, this will inevitably be linked to the death of former Chicago Bears safety Dave Duerson, who similarly shot himself in the chest a year ago. The subject of football players and suicide is a touchy one. A complex one. Something that many are and will try to better understand. And rightfully so. It's important. That goes without saying.
For today, though, the 'SC community lost someone it was especially close with, and death, understandably, becomes tragedy in any instance, especially in this case.
Seau is among the many athletes to captivate Trojan fans and Southern California natives. His aggressive style of play, his "nice guy" demeanor made him a perfect match for many in this area. All created a lasting memory. He had soft touch, yet was polar opposite for three hours on Sunday.
And now he is dead. At 43.
For more on Seau's death, ParagonSC over SB Nation's USC blog, Conquest Chronicles, touched on the former linebacker's legacy.