Originally written on Chicks in the Huddle  |  Last updated 11/12/14

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 29: Linebacker Junior Seau #55 of the San Diego Chargers stands on the field during the NFL game against the New England Patriots on September 29, 2002 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Chargers won 21-14. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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When I was just a young girl living in New Orleans, trying to figure out why the team I loved sucked so bad and growing to love and understand the game of football, I can remember attaching myself to players on teams other than my beloved Saints. Sure I admired the Joe Montanas, Dan Marinos and Emmit Smiths of the league. But then, there were players like the Steelers’ Rod Woodson and of course…Chargers linebacker Junior Seau.

There was no reason for me to know who Junior Seau was. It’s not like there was a reason for anyone on the Chargers’ team to be on my radar back then. The Saints hardly ever played the Chargers. The Chargers weren’t exactly “America’s team.” And while Junior Seau was an amazing player, he didn’t have a traditional “glamour” job in the NFL. But for some reason I knew him and I loved his passion. He helped me tap into the emotion of the game. It’s the same emotion that eventually led me to write about football, joust for a ticket to see the Saints in the Super Bowl, and follow my team around the world. He played with heart. All guts, no glory. Even before I truly understood football, I understood that level of intensity that Junior Seau brought to the game and it moved me.

Upon hearing the news today that Seau took his own life, a different kind of emotion hit me. It’s hard to imagine someone who once seemed so full of life would one day have his life cut short at his own hands. His death is already being compared to that of Dave Duerson, the former Bears player who killed himself and asked that his brain be used for research. He suspected that years of hard hits and concussions on the field left him mentally impaired. Researchers later revealed that he suffered from a neurodegenerative disease linked to concussions.

It could be a while before we know what made Seau shoot himself in the chest. His suicide comes after a string of bizarre incidents, like when Seau drove his car off a cliff in 2010. But regardless of what led to the suicide, nothing changes the legacy of Seau. He made the Pro Bowl 12 times and was a 10-time All-Pro. The Hall of Fame was certainly in his future.

Seau’s mother gave a tearful statement outside of his home earlier today asking for prayers. Hopefully our prayers will bring her comfort along with the knowledge that her son’s life touched so many people, including a little girl in New Orleans who knew very little about the Chargers but cheered on Junior Seau as if he were wearing black and gold.

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