OCEANSIDE, CA (RNN) - Former all-pro linebacker Junior Seau is dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.
Oceanside, CA Police chief Frank McCoy said the former San Diego Charger's girlfriend found him in a bedroom around 9:35 a.m. PT and that a handgun was found near his body.
"Lifesaving efforts" were not successful, according to McCoy.
Seau, who was 43, leaves behind three children - two sons and a daughter - with his ex-wife, whom he divorced in 2002.
"I don't understand. I don't know anything. I am shocked, but I appreciate everybody [showing] your love to my son," Seau's grief-stricken mother, Louisa Seau, said tearfully. "I pray to God, please take me, take me, leave my son - but it's too late."
In 2010, Seau drove his car off a cliff after falling asleep. The accident happened the day after he was arrested on a domestic abuse charge.
Seau was known for his philanthropy and his vivacious spirit.
"I am completely distraught over the death of my friend Junior Seau," tweeted TV producer Mike Fleiss. "He brought so much joy to everyone around him. RIP #55."
New England Patriot wide receiver Chad Ochocinco tweeted: "My prayers and condolences to the family of one of the NFL's greatest linebackers to ever play the game ... Junior Seau ... R.I.P."
Seau was born Tiaina Seau on Jan. 19, 1969. He was the fifth of six kids born to parents who immigrated to California from American Samoa.
Seau played linebacker at the University of Southern California before entering the NFL draft after his junior year. The San Diego native was selected by his hometown team, the Chargers in the first round of the 1990 draft.
After playing for the Chargers for 13 years, Seau was traded to the Miami Dolphins where he played for three years.
Seau retired in 2006, but when the New England Patriots called four days later, he signed with on with the team for the 2007 season. He played with the team through the 2009 season.
In his 20-year career with all three teams, Seau had 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions.
The all-pro linebacker announced his retirement in January 2010.
Seau was elected to 12 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances.
The football star created the Junior Seau Foundation in 1992 to help prevent child abuse, educate children about drugs and alcohols, and create programs to prevent juvenile delinquency.
"He was a local hero. He certainly gave back to the community and to the youth through his Junior Seau Foundation," Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood said to North County Times. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends."
In San Diego in 1996, a the football player opened a restaurant called "SEAU'S," a sports-themed restaurant. He also created a clothing line called "Say-Ow."
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