Junior Seau, Former NFL Star, Dies in Apparent Suicide
05/02/2012 AT 03:20 PM EDT
Seau, 43, died of a "self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest this morning," San Diego Chargers Chaplain Shawn Mitchell tells ABC News.
Seau – full name: Tiaina Baul Seau, Jr. – was an Oceanside high school football phenom and a 1990 first-round draft pick out of USC.
He played for the nearby San Diego Chargers until he signed with the Miami Dolphins before the 2003 season. He spent portions of the last four seasons with the New England Patriots before retiring in January.
His record was 1,526 tackles, 56.5 sacks and 18 interceptions in his 20-season career, according to CNN. Off the field, Seau starred on the Versus network reality show Sports Jobs with Junior Seau.
Two years ago, he was arrested on a domestic violence charge – the victim was described as a girlfriend – only hours before he drove his white Cadillac SUV off a cliff in nearby Carlsbad, authorities told CNN.
Landing on the beach at Carlsbad, he remained conscious and was moved to nearby Scripps La Jolla Hospital for treatment, authorities said.
No alcohol or drugs were involved in the car accident, police said, and the linebacker's ex-wife, Gina Seau, and their four children saw him in the hospital. The charges were dropped.
"He would never try to harm himself or anyone else," Gina told the San Diego Union-Tribune at the time.
In addition to his football career, Seau owned two Southern California restaurants named Seau's and ran a nonprofit organization that bore his name and donated nearly $4 million for services and scholarships to children and young adults.