Thousands set to honor hometown hero
SAN DIEGO (CNS) – Local sports hero Junior Seau was laid to rest in his
native Oceanside Friday as tens of thousands of fans prepared to flock to
Qualcomm Stadium for a public memorial service.
Today's events continued a string of services that began last Sunday
with a traditional surfer's paddle-out ceremony in the waters in front of the
former San Diego Chargers linebacker's beachfront home, where he was found dead
last week of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. On Thursday, a private viewing of
Seau in his casket was held at the same Calvary Chapel in Oceanside where a
private funeral was held this morning.
Members of Seau's family, including his two children, ex-wife Gina,
friends and former teammates such as LaDainian Tomlinson and Marcellus Wiley
packed the 2,000-seat church before his body was taken to Eternal Hills
cemetery in Oceanside.
Seau became a San Diego sports icon during his 20-year NFL career,
joining the likes of Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn and Don Coryell, the late
Chargers and San Diego State University coach. The Chargers, who are paying for
this evening's “Celebration of Life” event at Qualcomm Stadium, expect
anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 people to attend.
Admission and parking will be free and on a first-come, first-served
basis. Water, soft drinks and food will be sold, but no alcohol.
A heavy-hitting lineup of former Chargers football players is expected
at the tribute to the Oceanside High School alumnus. It includes quarterback
Dan Fouts and Tomlinson, a running back.
Other scheduled speakers include Bobby Ross, the head coach of the lone
Chargers team to go to the Super Bowl; former Tampa Bay and Denver standout
safety John Lynch; and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Miles McPherson, senior pastor at The Rock Church, will speak and serve
as master of ceremonies. Shawn Mitchell, senior pastor at New Venture Christian
Fellowship, will also be part of the program.
Both the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit
District plan to increase service to accommodate the event. Qualcomm's parking
lot opened at 2 p.m. and the stadium will open at 4:30 p.m., according to the
It was not clear whether Seau's family has made a final decision as to
whether to donate his brain to science. His suicide fueled speculation that
athletes, particularly football players, who suffer repeated head trauma are at
a greater risk for depression and other ailments, such as Alzheimer's disease.
On Thursday, the coroner's office released a statement, saying steps
were taken to allow study of brain tissue if the family wishes.
In addition to his football fame, Seau was known as a generous
philanthropist who contributed to youth charities. In lieu of flowers,
donations to the Junior Seau Foundation are encouraged. The foundation is
located at 5275 Market St., Suite B, San Diego, CA 92114. Donations also can be
made online at juniorseau.org.