Passing the Torch: Why LaMichael James Is the Next LaDainian Tomlinson

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Passing the Torch: Why LaMichael James Is the Next LaDainian Tomlinson
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At this point, LaMichael James clearly is playing below the level of LaDainian Tomlinson in his prime. A time will come when Tomlinson retires, and believe his younger clone will be ready to shine. 

These two running backs are separated by 10 years in age, and James is poised to take over Tomlinson's speedster, scoring machine role in the near future.

James is a redshirt sophomore making headlines at Oregon, and the elder Tomlinson is surprisingly productive in his first season with the New York Jets. 

The similarities between the two football players clearly outweigh the differences. 

Both were born in small Texas towns. James was born in New Boston, a suburb of Texarkana with a population of near 5,000. Tomlinson was born in Rosebud, a town just east of Temple with a population of less than 2,000 residents.

Tomlinson attended University High School in Waco and totaled 2,554 yards and 39 touchdowns his senior season. James rushed for 2,043 yards and 26 touchdowns his senior year at Liberty-Eylau High School. Despite ridiculous prep statistics, neither was touted as a blue-chip prospect.

James held seven recruiting offers in 2008, only to select the Ducks over TCU, Nebraska and Baylor. Tomlinson was overlooked by many programs and chose to stay in-state, enrolling at TCU in 1997. 

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During his junior year in 1998, Tomlinson ran for 1,850 yards and 18 touchdowns for the Horned Frogs. As a senior, he led the NCAA in rushing with 2,158 yards and 22 touchdowns on the season. The TCU running back was a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and won the Doak Walker Award. 

As a redshirt freshman in 2009, James rushed for 1,546 yards and 14 touchdowns for the Ducks. This season he sits at 1,548 yards and 19 rushing touchdowns with two games remaining. The Oregon sophomore will be a Heisman finalist and is the front runner to win the Doak Walker Award. 

Both Texas natives share the same fluid running style and physical stature. Tomlinson stands barely 5'10" and has filled his frame to 215 pounds. At 21 years of age, James is 5'9" and 185 pounds. Expect James to gain weight as his career progresses.

A college sprinter in Eugene, James has been clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. Tomlinson was reportedly clocked at 4.42 during the NFL combine but has been officially clocked at 4.38 as well. The two athletes, roughly the same size, are surprisingly strong and share comparable speed. 

Throughout his collegiate and professional career, Tomlinson simply hasn't missed games due to injury. In nine years with the Chargers he missed a total of three games. In two years at Oregon, James missed the 2010 season opener due to off the field issues and has been available to play in every other contest. 

Tomlinson has worn No. 21 since being selected with the fifth pick of the 2001 draft. James has worn No. 21 since arriving in Eugene. 

The Oregon star has a long way to go to become a Pro Football Hall of Fame running back. Tomlinson excelled at catching passes out of the backfield in San Diego.

Both Texas speedsters possess great instincts, vision and an uncanny knack for finding the end zone. Other Texas-born running backs, such as Adrian Peterson and Jacquizz Rodgers, simply don't look or play like Tomlinson or James.

For any football junkie, the similarities are puzzling, exciting and will provide a seamless transition from the Tomlinson legacy to the potential superstar career of James. 

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