This will be a special weekend for San Diego Chargers fans, in an otherwise dreary season.
The Chargers host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, in what used to be a special rivalry game, dating from the old AFL Days, to Bobby Ross-vs-Marty Schottenheimer, to more recently Philip Rivers vs everyone at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bolts have fallen on hard times. Kansas City is trying to come back from bad times.
Sunday the Chargers salute the past, the greatness of LaDainian Tomlinson. The running back was a tremendous pick made by the late General Manager John Butler. It was a pick that fell to him in that NFL draft of April 2001. He wasn’t even supposed to be there.
The Cleveland Browns, desperate for any and all players, thought and thought, and eventually bypassed Tomlinson, taking a Penn State defensive end, who promptly broke down under three years of injuries.
LT fell to the Bolts, and the records fell too, after his arrival in San Diego.
He had done so much, coming from the hill country of Texas to TCU. The Horned Frogs of Coach Dennis Franchione ran the wishbone-option. They were an afterthought in the waning days of what was the Southwest Conference and their first days in the WAC.
Tomlinson was so tough to tackle coming off the edge. He set all types of Frog records, in a program that once upon a time in the 1930s and 50’s was pretty elite.
There were spectacular seasons of 1800 and 2100 yards his final two years in Ft-Worth, playing in the shadows of the Texas Longhorns and the A&M Aggies. He even had a then-NCAA record of 408-yards in a game.
He was durable, he was tough, he was a slasher and a glider. His ability to get yards after contact was amazing, as was his ability to jump cut and go back against the grain. His vision, in that sea of humanity of blockers, was something to behold.
He was a pseudo Barry Sanders, never taking big hits, just glancing blows. Aside from a bruised bone in his knee, sadly in the AFC-Championship game in New England, he never came out of that Bolt lineup.
All he ever did was produce. An amazing 13,684-yards rushing. Some 624-receptions worth 4,772-yards. When not running, he was throwing 8TD passes out of the halfback option package. He had 162-career touchdowns.
The snapshot of all time was not Tomlinson sitting on the bench so badly banged up in New England with his helmet on, head looking down in disappointment, but rather being carried off the field after he set the NFL single season rushing record of 31-TDs in a season.
Like all things NFL, and many things under AJ Smith, then general manager, he was cut loose after 9-seasons of excellence. He went to the Jets and played two more campaigns, but he was always a Charger, then, and now even more so now.
He will be honored Sunday at halftime of the Chargers game. Who knows if owner Dean Spanos, he trying to leave San Diego, will even have the brass to take the field to introduce the greatness of the back and the man.
It would be nice if Chargers fans don’t boo Spanos this time, but rather erupt in a Standing Ovation to ring around the stadium to salute all the great things Tomlinson was to the franchise, and the great times he led the Bolts too.
Big things from a little package of talent, with the heart of a giant. From halftime honors here, to the next stop, the steps of the Hall of Fame in Canton.
#21-is-#1 in the hearts of the fans in San Diego.