Few reporters, if any, knew Junior Seau better than Jim Trotter, who has covered the NFL for more than two decades. So if anyone were to write a book on the Hall of Fame linebacker, who better than him?
So that’s what Trotter did. His new book, “Junior Seau: The Life and Death of a Football Icon,” offers a behind-the-scenes look at the struggles and triumphs of one of the most endearing players in NFL history.
Sadly, more than three years after Seau’s suicide, his family and friends are still trying to make sense of what happened.
“One law-enforcement person said to me the only person who’s ever going to know why Junior did what he did is Junior, and so anything else is merely speculation,” Trotter said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “I think what the family has learned since his death is just how deep his troubles ran – from depression to gambling to alcoholism to womanizing, all these different things. I don’t think that any of us knew the depths of these issues, and of course no one knew he was suffering from CTE as well. So when you put it all together, it’s sort of a Molotov cocktail and you can see to some degree why he did what he did because clearly he was not in his right mind.”
As Trotter explained, Seau was a disciplined, financially conservative man during the early stages of his career. Over the years, however, that changed.
“When you look at him at the end, clearly he was undisciplined,” Trotter said. “He was doing things financially that he never would have done when he was young. For instance, when he opened a restaurant back in 1996, he would stay up at night during training camp going over the receipts from that day’s business. He wanted to know everything that was going on. And then you look at him at the end of his life and the gambling he was involved with, you’re talking hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars. And that’s not something I believe he would have done early in his career. Why does he do that? Where’s the lack of impulse control there? Is that a factor or does that stem from CTE? We just don’t know at this point. We may never know.
“But then you get into the depression of it where you could see mood swings in him that were really pronounced,” Trotter continued. “Everyone knew him as this happy-go-lucky guy, and yet, there would be times he would flip very quickly and be depressed with a blank stare on his face. His sister said a lot for times he would go the opposite direction and be very angry and intimating before going back to being a jovial person. So he clearly was going through some things at the end of his life. But the one reason why he took his life? I don’t think we’ll ever know.”
Seau changed drastically toward the end of his life, but it wasn’t always apparent to those he encountered.
“(His life) became dark in private,” Trotter said. “He was still that guy publicly. If he met you – even at the end of his life – if he met you on the street, he still had the ability to make you feel like you were the most special person on the planet, that you were the only person that mattered. He called everyone ‘buddy’ – some because he couldn’t remember your name and others because he just felt like it was important to connect to people. So that part of him was still there. He would make you feel special, but behind the scenes, there were other issues going on.”