The Best – On and Off the Field

Posted by on June 11th, 2015  •  0 Comments  • 

Time out from all the issues with the San Diego Chargers Stadium crisis.
 
Time in to salute one of the absolutely best of all time.
 
In the history of Chargers football, we have been blessed to see great quarterbacks.  We’ve also had the opportunity to experience dynamic running backs like Keith Lincoln from the AFL-glory days, to Chuck Muncie and the Air Coryell days.
 
Now this community can salute #21-LaDainian Tomlinson.  His number being retired today, his induction into the Chargers Hall of Fame this coming November.
 
I first met him when he was a sophomore running back at TCU, scampering here, there and everywhere in a Sun Bowl win as the Horned Frogs trampled a once proud USC team.  They ran him off tackle, they ran him right on sweeps.  They ran pitch tosses and option packages.  He was relentless in Dennis Franchione’s triple option offense.  He did things against big time teams few had ever done, including his 406-yard rushing day his final season.
 
Tomlinson was one of the first gems drafted by new GM John Butler and his chief scout AJ Smith, in the early years of that regime.  You remember Chargers football then, the ruins Butler inherited in the aftermath of the Ryan Leaf era of error, (1-15) and all that.
 
Maybe it was luck, maybe it was by design, but Tomlinson fell down the draft board, as did another guy, quarterback Drew Brees.  The Cleveland Browns, incompetent in its early years as an expansion team, bypassed him.  They went after an oft injured defensive end from Penn State.  Drafted a drug troubled back from Boston College.
 
San Diego said thank you with that lst round pick of Tomlinson, who rewrote the running back record books at TCU, a school known for running backs, back in the days of the old Southwest Conference.
 
Oddly, the Miami Dolphins, in desperate need of a quarterback, bypassed Drew Brees too, and he wound up going in the later rounds to the Chargers too.
 
Tomlinson, built like a fire-plug, was a loaded firecracker.  He could go the distance on any snap.  He was great at jump cuts, explosive with a second gear when he got to the second level.  Tough, shifty, he never took direct hits, but rather glancing blows.
 
And what a perfect marriage, once the right coach got to San Diego, the arch-enemy from Kansas City, Marty Schottenheimer, he of history of quality running backs carrying the mail for the Chiefs.  Martyball was built around the kid from the hill country of Texas.
 
The stats are staggering, an 11-year career, 9-in San Diego, 2-with the Jets.  LT with 3,174-carries, 13,684-yards rushing, a 145-TDs on the ground.  They didn’t throw the ball at TCU, but they sure did throw it to him in San Diego, another 624-receptions.  Tomlinson wound up the career with 18,456-all purpose yards and 162-TDs in his career.
 
He was Butch Cassidy to Phillip Rivers-Sundance Kid.
 
This honor will precede the next honor, for I believe Tomlinson will be be giving a speech soon under the tent, on the steps, of the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton.
 
Close your eyes and see his dart-dash explosions and the long runs and scores into the end zone.  Close your eyes, and see him carried off the field on the shoulders of his teammates.
 
Forget the sad moment, him sitting on the bench, helmet on, with a knee injury, in a cold-dark loss to the Patriots in the AFC-championship games, or the guy wearing the weird looking colors of green and white, playing for Rex Ryan and the Jets.
 
#21 surely #1-in the hearts of Chargers fans.  A great honor for a great player, who is also a great person.

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