Former USC and NFL linebacker Junior Seau died Wednesday at his Oceanside home from a gunshot wound in his chest, authorities said.
He was 43. He is remembered primarily for his professional successes in his 20-year NFL career, most of which was spent with his hometown San Diego Chargers. But he also left quite a legacy up the road at USC, where he spent three years in the 1980's and starred for two seasons, leading the Trojans to a Rose Bowl win.
Wednesday's news shook up the USC community quite a bit, with tons of current and former players tweeting their surprise and sadness upon hearing the news. It also brought back memories of Seau's time with the Trojans, spanning from 1987-1989.
Seau sat out of his freshman season in 1987 because of academic restrictions. He reportedly scored a 690 on the SAT, 10 points lower than the 700-minimum needed to secure eligibility. Then he struggled with injuries his sophomore season before exploding onto the scene as a junior in 1989.
Totaling 19 sacks, he was named an unanimous All-American and Pac-10 Defensive Player of the Year, then declared early for the NFL draft and was selected fifth overall by the San Diego Chargers the following April.
Seau was the first big-time linebacker to wear No. 55 at USC, now a veritable tradition. Jack Del Rio did not wear No. 55, as is commonly believed, but instead No. 52. After Seau, though, the list deepened: Future NFL'ers Willie McGinest, Chris Claiborne and Keith Rivers all wore it, and highly touted sophomore Lamar Dawson now sports it.
No non-linebacker has worn No. 55 at USC since Seau departed school.
Seau was known for his play on the field, but the gregarious personality he always presented off the field was a big part of his reputation over the years. And he carried USC on his shoulders throughout.
For much of his NFL career, he had a golden retriever named Trojan and a rottweiler named Heisman. Last month, he visited the Coliseum for USC's annual Spring Game alongside other past stars and met many current players.
USC coach Lane Kiffin mentioned that meeting in a statement released earlier Wednesday after Seau's death was announced.
"This is a very sad day," Kiffin said. "The USC football program and the entire Trojan Family extend 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."