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Seau's death questions NFL's post-career assistance

FootballNFLSan Diego ChargersJunior SeauNational Football League Players Association

SAN DIEGO - Five days of mourning over the unexpected death of Junior Seau has led some to ask, does the NFL do enough to help players when they leave the field?

Many wonder why Seau took his own life and some wonder if he had trouble dealing with life after his 20-year NFL career came to an end.

“The NFL Players Association has put together quite a few programs for athletes to participate in after they're finished playing, even while you're playing actually,” said former Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher.

Fletcher played for the Chargers from 1995- 2002 after leaving the University of Wisconsin just shy of his degree.

But while with the Chargers, he took advantage of the NFL's continuing education program which offers to reimburse the players up to $15,000 per year in tuition.

“As long as you're connected they will take care of you not just continuing education,” Fletcher said. “The NFL will help you with business classes, entrepreneur classes, if you want to go into broadcasting or what not.”

Fletcher went beyond getting his undergraduate degree. While playing his final seasons with the Chargers, he also started seminary school, and now serves as the Pastor at the City of Hope International Church.

A former teammate of Junior Seau's, Fletcher said he doesn't know whether a difficult transition out of football led to Seau taking his own life.

Regardless, Fletcher said he's working towards trying to make the transition easier.

“There is a tremendous responsibility that as you start to become a young man into manhood that you take responsibility for your own life,” Fletcher said. “Again, it's not to say there is no responsibility to the NFL, but your life is your life. You have to take control of the ship, you have to navigate your life in a direction you want, and not put that on anybody else.

“I challenge athletes into understanding that, that they are their own business, they are a commodity for their business and the masters of their own life. Their life will be what they make it, not what the NFL makes it.”

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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FootballNFLSan Diego ChargersJunior SeauNational Football League Players Association