Let’s not wait until five years from now, when the now-retired LaDainian Tomlinson will be posing next to his bust at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, to appreciate LT’s accomplishments in his impressive 11-year NFL run.
I apologize if I’m coming across as curt, but if you can’t respect what Tomlinson did in his prime for the San Diego Chargers, then you’re stubbornly naïve. Tomlinson was arguably the greatest draft pick in the history of the Chargers organization.
He resurrected a Chargers franchise that was reeling from the damage done by arguably their worst draft pick in team history in quarterback Ryan Leaf back in 1998. It didn’t take all that long for Tomlinson to make Chargers fans forget about the Ryan Leaf era.
He ran for over 1,200 yards in his 2001 rookie season and didn’t look back. In 2003, Tomlinson became the first (and only) player in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season.
The impressiveness of that little caveat can never be overstated. The fact that LT was San Diego’s leading rusher and receiver in 2003 shows that he basically carried the Chargers on his back more times than not while in San Diego.
But perhaps even more impressive than LT’s 2003 season was his 2006 one, as Tomlinson racked up over 2,300 yards from scrimmage and 31 touchdowns en route to winning the NFL MVP trophy.
Of course, we live in a very critical society these days, meaning that many pundits won’t hesitate to point out Tomlinson’s shortcomings. Who can forget Tomlinson’s clashing with Patriots players at midfield after New England upset the Chargers in the 2006 AFC Divisional round?
Is LaDanian Tomlinson a first-ballot HOF?
And it definitely wasn’t Tomlinson’s proudest moment when the injured running back sulked on the sidelines while Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers played on a torn ACL in the 2007 AFC Championship Game.
But failing to get to a Super Bowl won’t prevent Tomlinson from rushing into Canton on his first try. After all, Tomlinson is a five-time Pro Bowler, four-time first-team All Pro, two-time second-team All Pro, two-time rushing champion and is fifth all time on the NFL’s rushing leaders list.
But perhaps most importantly, let’s appreciate the fact that Tomlinson exits stage left as arguably the greatest running back of his generation.
And given how the star running back is becoming more and more of a dying breed in pro football—thanks to illegal contact and running backs by committee—we may have just witnessed the last first-ballot Hall of Fame running back (other than, perhaps, Adrian Peterson) in LT.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate that.