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Seau's death adds to dark legacy of championship team

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
May 3, 2012 -- Updated 1436 GMT (2236 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Eight players from the 1994 Chargers team have died
  • Junior Seau was found dead Wednesday
  • The 1994 Chargers are the only edition of the team to make the Super Bowl

(CNN) -- Grieving for a fellow player is, sadly, nothing new for members of the 1994 San Diego Chargers. Legendary linebacker Junior Seau, who was found dead Wednesday of an apparent suicide, is now the eighth player from that team to die.

The 1994 Chargers, a group of gritty overachievers, are the only edition of the team to make the Super Bowl. But instead of that feat being the team's legacy, many are wondering about the string of freakish deaths that have haunted the AFC championship team.

"Not again," former Chargers running back Natrone Means said to the San Diego Union-Tribune after one of the deaths in 2008. "It's crazy, just crazy, that we've had so many guys who have fallen. I can't make any sense of it. I've given up trying. You just hope you quit getting these random messages out of nowhere that another teammate has passed away."

The tragic list includes:

Emotional mom: God take me, leave my son
Police: Seau death an apparent suicide

-- In 1995, about five months after the Chargers lost to the San Francisco 49ers in the Super Bowl, linebacker David Griggs died in a car crash. He was 28.

-- In May 1996, running back Rodney Culver died in a plane crash. He was 26.

-- In July 1998, linebacker Doug Miller died after being struck by lightning while camping. He was 28.

-- In May 2008, center Curtis Whitley was found dead of a drug overdose. He was 39.

-- In October 2008, defensive end Chris Mims died of complications from an enlarged heart. He was 38.

-- In February 2011, defensive tackle Shawn Lee died of a heart attack. He was 44.

-- In December, linebacker Lew Bush died of a heart attack. He was 42.

Then Wednesday, tragedy hit the team and the NFL community again when Seau was found dead in a bedroom of his Oceanside, California, home. A handgun was found near his body. He was 43.

His crestfallen mother sobbed loudly as she spoke outside the home just two hours after police were called there Wednesday.

"I pray to God, 'Take me; take me; leave my son,' but it's too late," Luisa Seau said.

Bobby Ross, who coached the Chargers during the 1994 season, was one of the many mourning after the news of Seau's death.

"Junior, to me, was the epitome of what a football player was," Ross said. "Tremendous team player. Tremendous leader. Tremendous leader on our football team."

Ross has said Seau was the heart and soul of that 1994 team. The Chargers shocked the football world by beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game to get to the Super Bowl. That season the Charger's defense was led by Seau's team-leading 124 tackles.

In an interview Wednesday with CNN affiliate WTVR, Ross said he did not want to speculate on whether mental health issues or other issues could have caused the string of deaths for his former players.

He just wanted to talk about Seau.

"I'm totally shocked and very, very saddened by the whole thing," Ross said.

Read more about Junior Seau's death from CNN affiliate WTVR.

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