Trading carrots for chocolate pudding since 2012.
On Monday, one of my favorite professional athletes of all time called it a career.
Most NFL fans and experts won’t call LaDainian Tomlinson the best to ever do it, and that’s OK. He wasn’t as shifty as Barry Sanders. He wasn’t as powerful as Bo Jackson. He’s wasn’t as fast as Chris Johnson. He didn’t have as many rushing yards as Emmitt Smith. Most importantly, in the eyes of some, in his 11 seasons, he never won (or even reached) a Super Bowl.
Still, anyone who believes he’s not a first-ballot Hall of Fame selection is either plain stupid or just doesn’t know football.
The numbers don’t lie. The fifth overall pick out of Texas Christian University in 2001 ran for 13,684 rushing yards, a total that ranks fifth all time. His 145 rushing TDs? Second. 162 total TDs scored? Third. And that doesn’t include his seven TD passes.
He either holds or shares 37 NFL records. The most notable are his single-season marks of 31 touchdowns (including a record 28 rushing) and 186 points scored, both achieved in his MVP year of 2006. He’s been to five Pro Bowls and has two rushing titles. He’s one of only eight players to ever rush, receive and throw for scores in the same game. So many more numbers can be touted, but I won’t bore you with those.
What made Tomlinson special for me, other than playing for my San Diego Chargers, was his unselfish demeanor and the way he played the game. This fact was not lost on the NFL’s brass, who awarded L.T. with the Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2006, given for excellence in charity work.
Although he is one my favorite athletes that I’ve not been lucky enough to meet (for perspective, I have met Chipper Jones, Chris Webber and Paul Scholes, to name a few), all I’ve ever heard about L.T. is about how humble he is, and you could see it in his press conference Monday. Although he’s definitely a superstar, he comes off as laid back. To me, that’s awesome.
L.T. was my man, 100 Grand! However, I would love to know what he was thinking on this one. If this is somehow ever read by L.T., I say to him, “My bad. I couldn’t let this one slide.” (See what I did there?)
Tomlinson left the Chargers two years ago. Assuming he doesn’t pull a Junior Seau (rest in peace) and attempt to make a comeback (that “graduation” comment he made in the presser makes me wonder a bit), he’s now left the NFL for good.
When Ron Burgundy famously said, “Stay classy, San Diego,” he was definitely talking about L.T.
Sundays in the NFL will still be fun. They just won’t be quite as classy.