By: BUCKEYES for LIFE
In the 2001 NFL Draft, the San Diego Chargers picked a talented running back from Texas Christian University. The fifth overall pick turned out to be one of the best to ever play the game. The 5’10” LaDainian Tomlinson played with the Chargers from 2001 to 2009, before becoming a free agent. He then took his talents to the Big Apple as a New York Jet. After a brief two-season stay with the Jets, L.T. decided to close the book on his professional football career. The Hall-of-Fame-bound running back retired this past Monday, as he announced it was time to move on. He gave a brief speech on his time as a player, and why he left the game. He joined forces with the Chargers for one day to retire as a Charger. L.T. also gave a shout out to his friend and former teammate, the late Junior Seau. In his speech, L.T remembered what his friend said when he retired: “I am graduating today!”
In his college years at TCU (1997-2000), L.T led the Horn Frogs to their first Bowl Game since 1994, and their first Bowl win since 1956. In his junior year, L.T. rushed for 1,850 yards, and senior year rushed for 2,158 yards. In 2000, he was fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting, an All-American, and Doak Walker Award winner for best running back in the nation. His number is now retired at TCU.
L.T.’s years as a Charger and Jet led him to five Pro Bowls, and a MVP in 2006. Tomlinson is the NFL’s fifth all-time leading rusher with 13,684 yards on 3,174 carries. His greatest seasons were in 2006 and 2007, when he gained 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns. In the 2007 season, L.T and the Chargers made their way to the AFC title game, where they lost to the New England Patriots. As he left the Chargers to go to New York, the Jets were making some big moves. They acquired Jason Taylor, Santonio Holmes, and L.T. As a Jet, he did not have a season over a thousand yards. The closest was the 2010 season, with 914 yards rushed. This time L.T. and the Jets made the AFC title game, and once again L.T.’s dream to play in the Super Bowl was shot down, as the Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Jets. In this game L.T. could not score at the one-yard line on fourth and goal. In 2011, L.T. had his worst season, with only 280 yards. This season saw very limited action with only one start. The 11-year veteran had only one touchdown as well.
Even without that Super Bowl win or appearance, the 33-year-old Tomlinson’s time as a player will be one for the ages. He did not have the moves of Barry Sanders or Walter Peyton, or the power of Emmitt Smith or Jim Brown. But this guy is one of the smartest players ever. He knew what to do with the football, and he knew how to bring his team back and become a leader. The players and fans have so much respect for him that he would have been welcomed to play with any team. Thank you, Number 21; you have been fun to watch.