My maiden name is Marquardt.
Its German descent but a familiar last name to Samoans, thanks to WWI Germans exploiting trade and making babies there in Samoa. In the N.County area of San Diego, Ca. where I grew up, there was a group of Marquardt’s who were on our rival football team. I went to Vista High with our own Samoan hero, legendary Colorado University quarterback, Sal Aunese (RIP). Sal would joke with the his O’side brothers to be nice to me because I was one of them. One day someone on the Oceanside team started the joke that I was their ‘albino Samoan girl’. A mascot of sorts. I couldn’t argue with that.
Players who surfed, including Junior, would see me out in the water and were always super friendly. The competition for waves was always fierce especially for me as a teenage girl, but they would shelter me from oncoming posers threatening to run over the little albino Samoan girl or snaking all my waves. I was blessed to learn how to surf in their presence, riding waves in Oceanside Harbor the Pier or Buccaneer Beach breaks. I always loved them and a handful of other good guys, who gave me that gift growing up. They were some of the best times of my life.
People thought Junior Seau was so lucky. But he really sacrificed his life to rise above the beach loving, party throwing, rowdy, church going crowd…just to be able to go back to them again as the same guy that left, or so many had thought. On his journey, he made us cheer for the Chargers even when they sucked and took what still seemed to be our small town, into the Football Hall of Fame. For that we are all grateful as he came back and used his fame to help the at-risk youth and Marines of our community and created the Junior Seau Foundation.
In his retirement, Junior could be found on any given morning in front of his beach house doing CrossFit exersizes with local Marines, surfers, housewives, the postal carrier, whomever wanted to get down and dirty on the sand and be motivated by and become motivation for, this NFL legend. It was a gift he freely gave to his neighborhood just south of Oceanside Pier on the strand. A perfect view and some of the best surf in the area was his backyard and he loved it there playing his ukulele and his spirit channeling his Samoan island ancestors. Over the years, the Pier became home to gang-bangers and there was even an occasional murder, but for the most part people like Junior are what kept it clean, safe and under watch. It’s a safe bet that nothing would get by Junior, if he saw it happening.
Life seemed good for Junior Seau. He had a beautiful girlfriend Mary, who lived with him, took care of his business, made sure he remembered appointments and was devoted to him, he had kids that he loved and was so proud of his daughters on ‘The Wave’ volleyball team. He traveled to her events and was a saving grace for the volleyball Dads who were needing a major testosterone infusion on these girls trips, or a little ukulele entertainment. I think is safe to say is that Junior was the kind of guy with such a huge heart, that to disappoint those he loved or who looked up to him, carried guilt that couldn’t be shaken.
But there was a growing element to his personality that wasn’t like him. Eventually it became evident in behaviors he was exhibiting. He and Mary had a fight and a domestic disturbance call was made which threw him into the Vista jail. The next day he drove his car off the cliff in Carlsbad. We all knew it was a cry for help. Apparently, Mitchell the former Chargers pastor was counseling him. While Christian counseling is all well and good, I doubt very seriously that Mitchell knew what he was dealing with nor was he trained to see the signs of the psychological impact of TBI. Junior took many hard hits over the years, and for the most part, you just don’t get into the Football Hall of Fame without them. Fact is, brain injury leaves a lasting impression and needs very specific treatment and attention in counseling.
My father, was an All American Quarterback, he told me of this years ago when we saw football stars falling down in the public eye. Sometimes they turned to drugs and as we watched other local players (Carlsbad you know who I’m thinking of..) make it to the NFL, only to be struck down by these injuries and poor coping skills. The alpha male types don’t often reach out for help until they hit rock bottom. Usually jail time, or worse. Junior had hit rock bottom on that car ride to the Vista jail. That was NOT the Junior Seau in his mind…he was not a criminal…he didn’t hurt or scare people.
He may have been thinking things that I hear from veterans suffering from the same…What have I become? She would be better off without my sorry self…all I am is a burden and it’s getting worse. I could carry on about all the reasons that I think Junior’s head injuries played the major role in his suicide. But the thing that made it clear to me was the message we got. It could have been his last thought when he pulled that trigger to the heart, just like his friend did who wanted to save his brain for research. I don’t think it could be any more transparent to us all, unless there was a note.
For now, I can claim to be at least a partial TBI subject matter expert. Starting with the fact that at age 15 my best friend was in a coma for two weeks and I moved in and helped her to rehabilitate, she had to re-learn walking, talking, adding, subtracting, common sense, just about everything came back at an accelerated pace, except many things that Junior also had issue with…short term memory, social reasoning issues with impulse and anger control and I’m sure there were others that if he had been getting treatment, an expert would have been able to diagnose. These are parts of the brain controlled in the frontal or occipital lobes and are also the parts that would be bruised by being tossed around in your skull.
I eventually pursued a degree in psychology sparked by that experience and began mental health testing on combat veterans, as well as, several years working for State of Ga. in Dept. of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, Office of Intake and Evaluation writing reports on mental status, medical, social and environmental histories.
My jobs have made me privy to personal information by interview, observation and instinct. People have different symptoms, but I could tell you from just talking to those who cared for him, Juniors head trauma presented as typical of a brain injury in the frontal and occipital lobes, a progressive deterioration with age (common) with impulsive, angry outbursts, very difficult to control and the resulting psychological impact is guilt and depression. A ton of guilt because a guy like Junior thought he had to always be in control…but he was out of control with his emotions and was hurting the people he loved.
I could see how he may have rationalized what a lot of veterans that are suicidal believe, that he was …”More of a burden than a help….. Would be better off dead with the insurance money then to have to deal with me…Its never going to get better, only worse.”
This story is so familiar to us who work with suicidal veterans and who understand the TBI that our troops are coming home with. So many not properly diagnosed and can be labeled as PTSD, Bi-Polar Disorder NOS or have a concussion on record but tell others they are OK and don’t get the diagnosis. Unfortunately, what finally brings the actual brain injury to our attention can be a mental illness a progressive disease, like Parkinsons, just think about Muhammad Ali , another disability or suicide. Today, veteran suicide is literally an epidemic that people don’t know how to prevent. That is why its my top priority when helping assist wounded warriors with resources and dream trips that will pull them out of that deep figure 8 track of poor self-image and depression.
I will continue to try to bring the epidemic to people’s attention because this is why we are losing more of our young men to suicide than we did in war. OVER 18 per day and that is just the recorded suicides, not the ones by Cop or extreme activities. Their ages are 27 and under, on average.
If we can’t take care of our young men who have been ordered to do things that we cannot even fathom in our worst dreams, then why would anyone want to volunteer for the military? For the most part, Americans are clueless to how these invisible wounds effect so many lives until something like this happens and I know that Junior, having given so much to the troops, would want us to use his story to help them and sports athletes suffering the same, in his death.
Is brain injury linked to the suicide of Junior Seau? (ABC News article)
This albino samoan says YES….it could actually be the biggest issue.
Rest in peace Junior. I picture you on the endless wave where we will all meet again one day….. and this time, I’ll be tan.
- Did the NFL Kill Junior Seau? (blogs.lawyers.com)
- Junior Seau receives tribute on Saturday (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Oceanside names amphitheatre, community center after Seau (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- TMZ: Junior Seau’s family to be honored guests at Chargers home opener (tracking.si.com)
- Chargers Will Retire Juinior Seau’s Number 55 at Home Opener (boltbeat.com)
- Junior Seau’s Autopsy Reveals Linebacker Had No Alcohol or Illegal Drugs in His System at Time of Death (nesn.com)
- Junior Seau honored on billboard off I-5 in Oceanside (nfl.com)
- Junior Seau autopsy finds no illicit drugs, no brain damage (latimesblogs.latimes.com)
- For San Diego, a Clean Autopsy Means More Questions Surround the Junior Seau Death (rantsports.com)