Junior Seau was an All-Pro linebacker during his NFL career, and had a profound impact on many players, including Bengals linebacker Rey Maualuga. / Getty Images/Stephen Dunn
Rey Maualuga participated in Junior Seau’s celebrity golf tournament in early March and didn’t sense anything wrong with the former perennial All-Pro linebacker.
That’s why it came as a shock on Wednesday afternoon when the Bengals linebacker heard that Seau had passed away.
Initial reports indicated that Seau, 43, committed suicide following a morning shooting at his Oceanside, Calif., home.
“He looked great and was having fun being around everyone. He was just another guy who seemed happy,” Maualuga said. “It’s a tough situation. This is not a good day for anyone.”
This was the second straight year that Maualuga got to play in Seau’s tournament. Even before Maualuga got a chance to meet Seau, he had a big impact on Maualuga.
Before Seau had a 20-year career in the NFL, he starred at Southern California. When it came time for Maualuga to pick where he wanted to go, it was a no-brainer.
“My dad had a big role in the decision-making but with USC having a rich tradition of Polynesian players playing there, I just wanted to follow him,” Maualuga said. “If he (Seau) could do it, then a guy in a small town could do it too.”
During Pop Warner and high school ball in Eureka, Calif., Maualuga wore 55, which was Seau’s number. When Maualuga went to USC, though, that number was already taken by Keith Rivers. Maualuga then chose 58 after Lofa Tatupu.
It was during a recruiting trip at USC that Maualuga first met Seau. for the first time. At the time, Seau was being inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame and Maualugasaid told Seau he was in awe. the first time he got a chance to meet him.
It wasn’t until the past couple years, though, that Maualuga got a chance to know Seau.
During the lockout last year Maualuga got a call from his agent, Gary Uberstine, that Seau wanted Maualuga to play in his golf tournament.
When Maualuga landed in California, Seau picked him up and they spent time at Seau’s house.
“Those were fun weekends. We were not talking so much about playing but just talking about different things,” Maualuga said. “He would always call everyone ‘buddy’ and treated everyone with respect.”
The more he talked about Seau, the more Maualuga was shocked that it could have been a suicide.
Maualuga said, though, that he would remember Seau as a good friend and mentor.
“For a guy with that kind of influence and it still wasn’t enough to be happy. If something he was going on, he did a good job of hiding it,” Maualuga said.
Maualuga was not the only one who crossed paths with who Seau. affected. impacted.
Defensive tackle Domata Peko, who didn’t want to comment Wednesday, said two years ago that Seau was a role model for him and that Peko had a poster of Seau up on his wall while growing up.
Bengals secondary coach Mark Carrier was a teammate of Seau’s at Southern California.