On Wednesday May 2, TMZ reported a police investigation of a shooting at Junior Seau’s home in Oceanside, CA. It was later confirmed that Junior Seau had committed suicide.
Soon, many people in the football community voiced their (unsolicited) opinions about what could cause a man like Junior, who seemed to have everything, to take his own life. Was it chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated blows to the head? Depression? Dealing with the emotional difficulties of NFL player transition?
Whatever you believe about Junior’s death, we can all agree that his style of play and charisma elevated an entire southern California football community for two decades.
When I called a friend at the NFLPA to tell him about Junior, he told me that Stacy Robinson, the former New York Giants’ wide receiver, was in hospice care after with multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood. Stacy, who was diagnosed in 2009, lost his fight with cancer six days later.
News of his death was obscured by Seau’s suicide, a more sensational story. I’ve become increasingly uneasy about the story that never gets told. When guys like Stacy (or Roman Oben) have played their last down, there’s no blurb on the bottom of ESPN. Nor should there be.
But that doesn’t mean we don’t leave legacies of our own. Stacy certainly did.
We go on with our lives, trying to recreate ourselves and figure out our plan for the next phase of our lives, not just our careers. The NFL isn’t a career at all. It’s an opportunity, one that has been famously described as “Not For Long”.
In the gossip of the past six days, it was said that Junior Seau had all the help and resources he needed if he was, indeed, suffering from an illness that would cause him to take his own life. It was also said that Seau committed the ultimate sin - taking your own life.
As someone diagnosed with depression symptoms, I certainly understand the other half of the argument. It can be difficult, finding yourself the same person but with a very different life that requires very different things of you. For some, it can be too much to discover yourself a stranger to your own life.
Stacy saved many players from the same fate. We can honor Stacy by helping others the way he helped us. Remembering what he taught: When we feel lost, we always have a choice.
I know I am not alone in feeling grateful that I had Stacy to learn from, be inspired by and lean on when it became difficult to stand alone in the life of an NFL player.
Stacy was a mentor, servant, and leader. On the field, he helped the Giants win Super Bowl XXI. Off the field, he was a champion for player development issues at the NFLPA.
Stacy departed this earth just a few months after his 50th birthday, leaving his wife, Nadine, and three sons behind, as well as the legacy of thousands of NFL players whose lives he helped improve.
I was fortunate to have my life touched by him, and will miss him dearly.
Roman Oben was an offensive tackle for the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and San Diego Chargers during his 12 year NFL career.