His longest run: San Diego to Can­ton

Tom­lin­son en­ters Hall of Fame as a San Diego Charger but joins team in L.A.

Los Angeles Times - - NFL - By Kevin Acee kevin.acee@sdunion­tri­bune.com

CAN­TON, Ohio — LaDainian Tom­lin­son was in Chicago last week­end at­tend­ing a cor­po­rate event for Panini Amer­ica, shak­ing hands and pos­ing for pic­tures.

He boarded a plane shortly be­fore 10 p.m., ar­rived at Los An­ge­les In­ter­na­tional Air­port af­ter mid­night and was on a field in Costa Mesa at 9 a.m.

At the first train­ing camp prac­tice of the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers, Tom­lin­son held a news con­fer­ence, took a mi­cro­phone to wel­come fans and then shook more hands and posed for more pic­tures with VIPs in two dif­fer­ent tents.

The man just doesn’t stop work­ing.

“My phi­los­o­phy is never look back, to keep on go­ing and go­ing,” he said re­cently. “Part of that I got from my mother. She some­times worked two jobs. She would be gone long hours and still come home and cook us din­ner. I just adopted that phi­los­o­phy. I al­ways felt if I looked back, I would slow down or for­get some­thing, I wouldn’t see what was next.” It ex­plains a lot. It is why he is here this week, slip­ping on the gold jacket and un­veil­ing the bronze bust that have been com­mis­sioned for him, one of just 310 mem­bers of the Pro Foot­ball Hall of Fame.

It is why af­ter re­tir­ing from the NFL in 2012 he im­me­di­ately went to work for NFL Net­work.

It is why he starred in the movie “God Bless the Bro­ken Road,” due out in De­cem­ber, and will soon start work on an­other film based on the life of one-legged NCAA wrestling cham­pion An­thony Robles.

It is why he con­tin­ues to be a Charger — declar­ing he will go into the Hall as a San Diego Charger but proudly work­ing for the Los An­ge­les Charg­ers.

“My foot­ball le­gacy is ce­mented,” Tom­lin­son ex­plained. “I’m go­ing into the Hall of Fame. I can’t be any greater. I’m a Hall of Famer. That part of my life is over. I find my­self search­ing for, ‘Where do I have my next im­pact?’ ”

He de­cided one place could be as spe­cial ad­vi­sor to Charg­ers chair­man Dean Spanos, do­ing pub­lic speak­ing and meet­ing with cor­po­rate part­ners in an at­tempt to, in Tom­lin­son’s words, “build the brand.”

San Diego, the town he made rel­e­vant in NFL terms for a dom­i­nat­ing stretch a decade or so ago, is di­vided on how it feels about Tom­lin­son now. Such is the hurt of aban­don­ment, the sense of be­trayal that one who made them so happy has cho­sen to align with some­one so hated.

“It’s dif­fi­cult,” Tom­lin­son said this week. “I cer­tainly un­der­stand the dis­ap­point­ment the San Diego fans and com­mu­nity have. I think about when I went through my deal with the Charg­ers and I was pissed. I was let go [af­ter the 2009 sea­son]. I thought I’d never come back. But then time passed, and as I watched the Charg­ers play I re­al­ized it is about the bolt. That bolt, you never can dis­miss it or for­get about it. I’m so much part of that or­ga­ni­za­tion and what I put into it. At the end of the day, that’s my team.”

Good golly, it was.

Tom­lin­son gained 1,236 yards his rookie sea­son, the first of what would be­come an un­prece­dented and still un­matched eight con­sec­u­tive sea­sons with at least 1,100 yards to start his ca­reer. He scored 10 touch­downs in 2001, launch­ing a streak of nine straight sea­sons with at least that many, also never done by any­one in NFL his­tory.

The Charg­ers still stunk — they had the NFL’s sec­ond worst record from 1996 to 2003 — but Tom­lin­son caught 100 passes in 2003. No one had ever done that while also rush­ing for 1,000 yards in the same sea­son.

In 2004, the Charg­ers made the play­offs. Over an eight-game win streak that cul­mi­nated with the Charg­ers clinch­ing their first AFC West ti­tle in 10 years, Tom­lin­son scored 11 of his to­tal 18 touch­downs.

He was the league’s most valu­able player in 2006 when the Charg­ers went 14-2. His 28 rush­ing touch­downs and 31 to­tal touch­downs that year still stand as NFL records. Count­ing his two sea­sons with the Jets, Tom­lin­son scored 162 touch­downs, a to­tal ex­ceeded only by Jerry Rice (208) and Em­mitt Smith (175).

A team that needed the city to buy tick­ets the pre­vi­ous seven years to avoid lo­cal tele­vi­sion black­outs sold out 48 straight games from Novem­ber 2004 through the end of the ’09 sea­son, a span in which the Charg­ers had the NFL’s third-best reg­u­lar sea­son record (67-29).

And in that time, Tom­lin­son be­came the NFL’s high­est paid run­ning back — his 13,684 ca­reer rush­ing yards rank fifth all-time — and the only San Diego pro­fes­sional ath­lete to be­come a true su­per­star on the na­tional stage.

In San Diego, late Charg­ers line­backer Ju­nior Seau and Padres Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn would be con­sid­ered more dear to lo­cals’ hearts. Seau was a na­tive, and Gwynn went to San Diego State and re­mained a Padre his en­tire 20-year ca­reer.

But na­tion­ally, there has never been a Charger to get so much recog­ni­tion.

His smile pitched Camp­bell’s Chunky Soup, Nike, Canon, Vizio and AT&T.

Now, the kid from Waco, Texas, is at home in Los An­ge­les with the Charg­ers.

He has di­vided his time be­tween the Dal­las area and L.A. since shortly af­ter re­tir­ing, when he be­gan work­ing as a tele­vi­sion an­a­lyst.

The only thing he has never done is stop work­ing.

De­nis Poroy As­so­ci­ated Press

LaDA­NIAN TOM­LIN­SON, shown in 2007, ran for at least 1,100 yards in his first eight sea­sons, and is third on the all-time NFL list for touch­downs scored.

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