LaDainian Tomlinson to Retire a Charger, One of Era's Greatest Players

Travis Wakeman@@traviswakeman10Correspondent IIJune 17, 2012

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 13:  Running back LaDainian Tomlinson#21 of the San Diego Chargers at Cowboys Stadium on December 13, 2009 in Arlington, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson will reportedly sign a contract with the San Diego Chargers on Monday and then retire from the league

A press conference is scheduled for Monday, where the announcement will be made—a fitting end for one of the league's best players over the last decade or so.

After telling Sports Illustrated's Jim Trotter that he was "95 percent retired," most fans knew he probably had played his last game. He kept the door open for the "right situation," and that is something I think many would have liked to see.

In his two seasons as a member of the New York Jets, Tomlinson had clearly lost a step. He ran for only 280 yards in the 2011 season and was reduced to mostly a third-down back.

But don't let that erase the image of a guy who would run circles around defenses. He had eight consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons in San Diego, where he became the face of the franchise.

The Chargers knocked on the door of the Super Bowl several times, but they could never quite get over the hump.

It was a stinging playoff loss in January of 2007 that many remember most.

The Chargers were considered to be a Super Bowl favorite that year, only to have the New England Patriots come into San Diego and deal them a 24-21 defeat.

Following the game, Tomlinson refused to shake hands with the Patriots players after many of them danced around and mocked the "Lights Out" dance that linebacker Shawne Merriman was known for. Tomlinson also had some disparaging remarks for the Pats organization and even their head coach. 

A lot of people seemed to lose respect for L.T. from that point on, but it was the heat of the moment after a bitter loss, one that prevented him from the one thing he was never able to obtain: a Super Bowl ring.

That season, Tomlinson ran for 1,815 yards and an astounding NFL-record 28 touchdowns. He also caught 56 passes for another 508 yards and three more scores. I had him on my fantasy team that year, and trust me, it was a lot of fun.

As a lifelong fan of the Denver Broncos, I was always supposed to dislike the San Diego Chargers and their players, along with the rest of the AFC West teams. But Tomlinson was a player I could never say anything bad about. He ran hard, and he had a passion for the game. He was also an electric player, one I truly enjoyed watching, even when he left a trail of fallen Broncos in his path.

I think it's a classy move for the Chargers to sign Tomlinson in order for him to retire with the team before he goes into their Ring of Fame.

You were a terrific player, LaDainian, and you deserve to be remembered as such. Canton surely awaits.