Was a ferocious football player ever as likable as Junior Seau, the 12-time Pro Bowl linebacker who died in an apparent suicide on May 2 at 43? In interviews he was thoughtful and expressive. Because of his spirit, his death is hard to fathom. Seau was once NFL Man of the Year; in 2005 he earned a Volunteer Service Award from President George W. Bush. He led the San Diego Chargers, his hometown team, to their only Super Bowl appearance, following the 1994 season. (They lost to the San Francisco 49ers.) “Junior was an icon in our community,” says Chargers president Dean Spanos. “He transcended the game.”
This text originally appeared in the May 14, 2012 issue of TIME magazine.
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