As he strode to the podium to give his speech in front of San Diego crowd I couldn’t help but think about how LaDanian Tomlinson will be remembered.
Of course we know about the 2006 Most Valuable Player award he won. That season all he did was rack up an NFL-record 28 rushing touchdowns that season; as well as an NFL-record for single-season touchdowns at 31.
We know about his 13,864 career rushing yards, and how that ranks him fifth all-time in NFL history. We also know about his 145 career rushing touchdowns that place him second all-time behind some guy named Emmit Smith and ahead of Marcus Allen, Jim Brown, and Walter Payton. We also won’t forget to mention his single-season points record of 186 set that very same MVP season.
So to sum up the beginning, I guess we can say we know he’s good. But what made him so good?
I can honestly say that we may not see a running back do the things he could do on a football field for a long time. That’s because besides the obvious talent as a runner his versatility enabled him to lined up as a receiver as well. A combination that gave defenses fits for years.
Remember his 2003 season? Most know what I am alluding to but for those who don’t here’s a quick history lesson. That season he had over 1,600-yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. he also caught 100 passes for 725 yards receiving. Think about that number for a second. 100 receptions as a running back. That doesn’t happen, and when it does it puts you in a different category of player.
“LT” was known as a player who had great hands and great receiving ability. Because of that ability the San Diego Chargers went on to one of the franchises most productive eras since their Super Bowl appearance in 1994. So productive was Tomlinson that Dean Spanos dubbed it “probably the most significant trade in San Diego Chargers franchise history.” He was largely credited with helping the Chargers franchise immediately turn their fortunes around and become perennial playoff contenders.
He finished his career with almost 5,000 receiving yards, which allowed him to amass the fifth most yards from scrimmage ever in the history of the NFL (18,456). There wasn’t anything on a football field LT couldn’t do. That includes passing, as he was often used in a package that allowed him to throw down the field. He added 7 touchdowns, 143 yards, and a rating of 143% passing.
Again I reiterate: there was nothing he could not do.
Coming out of TCU he was drafted fifth overall and was a noted member of that draft class. With his familiar southern drawl the Rosebud, Texas native walks away from the game after 11-seasons.
‘‘So today, I take the words of Junior Seau: I feel like I’m graduating. I really do, because I’ve got my life ahead of me, I’m healthy, I’m happy with a great family and I’m excited to now be a fan and watch you guys play.’’
Now 32, Tomlinson can almost certainly look forward to a career in broadcasting, and five years from now can look forward to the ultimate accomplishment as a professional football player.
His enshrinement into the NFL Hall of Fame.