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This story appears in ESPN The Magazine's April 15 Photo Issue. Subscribe today!
JUNIOR SEAU'S surfing wet suits still hang from a shelf in the garage. Imposing in size but now just formless shells, they are among the many heart-wrenching mementos of the former NFL linebacker's that dot the San Diego home of his ex-wife, Gina Seau. On the stone hearth in the den, a brown candle burns next to a football inscribed by a fan: RIP 55. Upstairs, Seau's beloved collection of ukuleles sits on a desk. Down the hall are helmets he collected from teammates during his 12 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl.
Seau killed himself on May 2, 2012, a little more than two years after retiring as one of the premier players of his generation. In January the National Institutes of Health confirmed that Seau suffered from CTE, the debilitating brain disease linked to violent collisions in football that can cause depression and dementia. Since then, Gina has stored the rest of his belongings in a closet. The couple divorced in 2002 after 10 years of marriage but remained close.
Inside the small carpeted space are Seau's favorite pin-striped suits and hats, a term paper he wrote at USC and stacks of old family photo albums. As the first anniversary of Seau's death approaches, Gina and their children -- Sydney, 19, Jake, 17, and Hunter, 12 -- have agreed to share those precious pictures. (Seau's oldest child, Tyler, grew up with his mother.) "I want people to see Junior so happy and so full of joy and life," Gina says. "The man I married, the father of our kids, he was so endearing and sweet and strong. Something happened. He eventually became a totally different person. But look at these pictures: For the longest time, we had everything ahead of us."
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