People gather outside the home of Junior Seau on Wednesday. (Eduardo Contreras / Associated…)
Junior Seau's apparent suicide has left many of his former teammates stunned and saddened, searching for answers as to why.
"I'm sorry to say, Superman is dead," said Shawn Mitchell, a chaplain for the San Diego Chargers. "All of us can appear to be super, but all of us need to reach out and find support when we're hurting."
Being from the San Diego area, Seau quickly became one of the most beloved Chargers of all time after he joined the team, and his popularity only grew after he led the team to the 1995 Super Bowl.
PHOTOS: Junior Seau | 1969 - 2012
"It's a sad thing. It's hard to understand," said Bobby Beathard, the Chargers general manager who drafted Seau out of USC with the fifth pick overall in the 1990 draft. "He was really just a great guy. If you drew up a player you'd love to have the opportunity to draft and have on the team and as a teammate, Junior and Rodney [Harrison], they'd be the kind of guys you'd like to have.
"I just can't imagine this, because I've never seen Junior in a down frame of mind," Beathard said. "He was always so upbeat, and he would keep people up. He practiced the way he played. He made practice fun. He was a coach's dream. He was an amazing guy as well as a player and a person. This is hard to believe."
Former Chargers quarterback Stan Humphries said there are three things he will remember most about Seau: "The intensity, the smile, the infectious attitude, it carried over to all the other guys."
Seau is the eighth member of San Diego Super Bowl team who has died, all before the age of 45. Lew Bush, Shawn Lee, David Griggs, Rodney Culver, Doug Miller, Curtis Whitley and Chris Mims are the others. Causes of death included heart attacks, a plane crash and a lightning strike.
Seau's ex-wife, Gina, said she had no idea what led the former player to shoot himself.
"We have no clues whatsoever," she said. "We're as stunned and shocked as anyone else. We're horribly saddened. We miss him and we'll always love him."
She also said she didn't know if the effects of concussions from his playing days contributed to Seau's death.
"So sad to hear about Jr Seau," tweeted New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who was with San Diego from 2001 through 2005. "Junebug. Buddy. The greatest teammate a young guy could ask for. This is a sad day. He will be missed greatly."
"We all lost a friend today," Chargers President Dean Spanos said in a statement. "This is just such a tragic loss. One of the worst things I could ever imagine."
Seau also played for the New England Patriots near the end of his career, and Patriots owner Robert Kraft had this reaction to news of his death:
"He may have been one of the most charismatic Patriots players in franchise history," Kraft said. "Today, the fans of the teams for which Junior played -- San Diego, Miami and New England -- lost more than a legendary football player. We lost our 'Buddy.'"