Friday, May 11, 2012
Tens of thousands of fans are expected to flock to Qualcomm Stadium today to bid farewell to local sports icon and hometown hero Junior Seau, who will be buried in Oceanside in a private ceremony this morning.
Today's events top off a string of services that began last Sunday with a traditional surfer's paddle-out ceremony in the waters in front of the former San Diego Chargers linebacker's beachfront home in Oceanside. On Thursday, a private viewing of Seau in his casket was held at the same Calvary Chapel in Oceanside where this morning's private funeral is being held.
Following this morning's service, Seau will be laid to rest at Eternal Hills cemetery in Oceanside.
Seau became a San Diego sports icon during his 20-year NFL career, joining the likes of Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn and Don Coryell, the late- Chargers and San Diego State University coach. The Chargers, who are paying for this evening's "Celebration of Life'' event at Qualcomm Stadium, expect anywhere from 30,000 to 60,000 people to attend.
Admission and parking will be free and on a first-come, first-served basis. Water, soft drinks and food will be sold, but no alcohol.
A heavy-hitting lineup of former Chargers football players is expected at the tribute to the Oceanside High School alumnus. It includes quarterback Dan Fouts, safety Rodney Harrison and running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Other scheduled speakers include Bobby Ross, the head coach of the lone Chargers team to go to the Super Bowl; former Tampa Bay and Denver standout safety John Lynch; and San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Miles McPherson, senior pastor at The Rock Church, will speak and serve as master of ceremonies. Shawn Mitchell, senior pastor at New Venture Christian Fellowship, will also be part of the program.
Both the Metropolitan Transit System and the North County Transit District plan to increase service to accommodate the event. Qualcomm's parking lot will open at 2 p.m. and the stadium will open at 4:30 p.m., according to the Chargers.
Seau, who was born Tiaina Baul Seau and was of Samoan descent, died from a self-inflicted gunshot to the chest, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office.
It was not clear early today whether Seau's family has made a final decision as to whether to donate his brain to science. His suicide fueled speculation that athletes, particularly football players, who suffer repeated head trauma are at a greater risk for depression and other ailments, such as Alzheimer's disease.
On Thursday, the coroner's office released a statement, saying steps were taken to allow study of brain tissue if the family wishes.
In addition to his football fame, Seau was known as a generous philanthropist who contributed to youth charities. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Junior Seau Foundation are encouraged. The foundation is located at 5275 Market St., Suite B, San Diego, CA 92114. Donations also can be made online at juniorseau.org.