La Mesans shed tears and brought flowers to the Junior Seau Sports Complex as they paid tribute to the San Diego Chargers great who died of an apparent suicide Wednesday morning in Oceanside.
“He gave his heart to San Diego,” said La Mesan Alan McCornack. “Everybody in San Diego is going to miss him."
“San Diego loves Junior Seau,” said McCornack, who attended and . “I don’t know what happened, but it’s a big loss.”
McCornack placed home-grown roses at the sports complex sign at Parkway Middle School. “It’s hard to talk about it,” he said with tears in his eyes. “It’s still so fresh.”
The sports complex—which includes La Mesita Park, the John A. Davis Family YMCA and the football field at the middle school—was one of Seau’s philanthropic projects in the county.
Named after the popular Chargers linebacker, the complex opened 12 years ago. Seau donated $55,000, as well as multiple hours helping garner donations for the complex, which features lighted, full-size football and soccer fields, four lighted tennis courts, a picnic area, a tot lot and a skate park.
“Junior wanted to create a facility that would allow kids to participate in sports because youth sports meant a lot to him when he was growing up,” said Yvonne Garrett, assistant city manager and director of community services with the . “He helped us achieve that goal for La Mesa and surrounding communities.”
Garrett continued: “Junior was passionate about getting this project done and took time out of his busy schedule to attend fundraising events in support of our efforts to raise money. He would make calls as needed to show how important this project was to La Mesa. His drive helped us make it happen.”
Garrett was prominently involved with interacting with Seau throughout the process. She said her fondest memory of the linebacker was the day the park opened.
“Junior had so much fun tossing footballs to the Pop Warner kids,” Garrett said. “I, along with so many others, am deeply saddened by the news today. My heart goes out to his family.”
Parents waiting to pick up their kids at the middle school Wednesday afternoon, paused to take photos of the sign and leave flowers.
Taylor Puapuaga Jr. wore his Chargers knit cap as he lay a yellow hibiscus.
“This is shocking and devastating,” said Puapuaga, who is from Hawaii but is visiting in Spring Valley. “He was a great football player and a great person.”
He recalled seeing Seau at a Pro Bowl game in Hawaii. “He meant a lot to Charger fans; he took us to the Super Bowl in ’95.”
Paupauga said he identified with Seau because he, too, is Samoan.
“He gave a good name to the Samoan people,” he said.
Superintendent Brian Marshall, who was a principal in the district at the time the complex opened, also expressed heartfelt condolences to the Seau family, on behalf of the district.
“We will always treasure Junior’s contributions to La Mesa with respect to the field donation at Parkway and the impact it’s had to the kids in our district,” Marshall said. “The district is eternally grateful to Junior and for the Seau Foundation for their work.”
Two eighth-grade girls who attend Parkway left notes at the created memorial and talked about their families' connections to the Seau family.
"I am 100 percent Chargers," said Kayla Rosado, who said she was a friend of Seau's nephew. "I have loved him all of my life, and it's sad to see him go."
"He was a good man. I don't think anyone saw it coming," she added.
Savanna Taylor, who said Seau was her father's friend, commented, "It's just sad to know that somebody like him is gone. It's just such a shock."