It was announced earlier this morning that the soon-to-be 33-year old running back LaDainian Tomlinson will retire as a San Diego Charger. He will hold a press conference to make the official announcement on Monday.
Tomlinson, a.k.a. "LT," was drafted fifth overall by San Diego in the 2001 NFL draft after rushing for over 5,000 yards and 54 touchdowns in four seasons at Texas Christian University. The TCU Horned Frogs eventually retired his No. 5 jersey after his stellar career which included 2,158 yards and 22 TDs on the ground as a senior in 2000.
Tomlinson didn't win Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 (Anthony Thomas of the Bears was the winner), but he did, however, put up 1,200 yards and 10 TDs on the ground and left his mark on the league as a young 22-year old.
Over the next eight seasons with the Chargers, Tomlinson was the definition of a workhorse and every down back. He rarely missed a game (missed just three regular season starts while in SD) and posted at least 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns in each of his nine seasons with the team.
Reaching five Pro Bowls and being named to four First Team All Pros solidified LaDainian as his era's most dangerous back. Using his combination of speed and agility, Tomlinson shredded opposing defenses similarly to the way Barry Sanders and Walter "Sweetness" Payton did throughout their respective Hall of Fame careers.
His signature TD celebration became a widespread phenomena as fellow players and fans alike attempted to emulate it.
He retires as the league’s fifth-leading rusher in history with 13,684 yards and third on the all-time touchdowns list (145 rushing, 17 receiving) behind only Jerry Rice (208 total) and Emmitt Smith (175 total).
The NFL MVP (2006) and two-time rushing leader ('06 and '07) also still holds the single-season record for total touchdowns, with 31 back in 2006 (28 rushing, three receiving). It’s a record that may not be broken again, in my opinion.
If there's any doubt that LT isn't a first ballot HOFer, then clearly you need to begin to do a little extra research.
The only thing Hall of Fame voters may hold against Tomlinson is his lack of postseason success and Super Bowl ring. In 10 playoff games, Tomlinson has just one 100-yard game and seven career TDs and a record of 5-5.
Fortunately for LaDainian, running backs are not judged by Super Bowl championships and postseason records. That's more of a career-maker (or breaker) for quarterbacks. As for Tomlinson's career lackluster 3.6 yards/carry average on 131 postseason rushing attempts, that wont slow him down either.
The best running back in NFL history (in my opinion) Barry Sanders has just a 4.2 Y/C average, 1 TD and a 1-5 record in six postseason starts with Detroit. The fact that his respective team has struggled in the postseason, along with Tomlinson's, doesn't take away from his accomplishments that got the team there.
Because, lets face it, Sanders is the sole reason Detroit made it that far. And much like him, Tomlinson was the main reason San Diego made five playoff appearances throughout his career.
Tomlinson's stellar career was slowed by a rocky finish in New York, as he spent two sub-par seasons with the Jets after showing signs of age with San Diego in 2009 (ran for under 1,000 yards in his career while missing two starts).
In New York, Tomlinson combined for 1,194 yards and 7 TDs in 14 starts. In the postseason, Tomlinson contributed 141 yards and two TDs on the Jets' way to an AFC Championship loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2010.
If it weren't for Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith's outlandish careers, Tomlinson would be the league's TD king. Especially considering in addition to his 162 combined rushing/receiving TDs, he also threw for seven, yes seven, TDs in his 11 seasons.
Tomlinson's rare combination of speed, agility and elusiveness will allow him to go down as a top-5 running back in league history. In fact, here is my list of top running backs (in order): 1) Barry Sanders, 2) Walter Payton, 3) Jim Brown, 4) Emmitt Smith, 5) LaDainian Tomlinson.
That's right, another legend will officially retire tomorrow, and he will be dearly missed by the league. Maybe not by opposing defenses and D-Coordinators, but undoubtedly by everyone else.
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Of course you know I had to include a highlight video, too (below)..