EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tomlinson on his HOF induction, NFL playing days and state of the Chargers
By Matt Pagels
I talked with Chargers great LaDainian Tomlinson about his Hall of Fame induction, his NFL playing days and his thoughts on the current team in a recent phone interview.
The word greatness will forever be associated with LaDainian Tomlinson.
The San Diego Chargers took Tomlinson with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, and he went on to become one of the greatest to ever play the game of football.
Tomlinson set franchise records for rushing attempts (2,880), rushing yards (12,490) and rushing touchdowns (138). He finished his 11-year career (final two years with the New York Jets) with 13,684 rushing yards,145 rushing touchdowns, 4,772 receiving yards, 17 receiving touchdowns and a 4.3 yards-per-carry average.
Tomlinson also led the league in rushing in 2006 and 2007 and in rushing touchdowns in ’04, ’06 and ’07. He currently holds the single-season touchdown record, scoring 31 total touchdowns (28 rushing, three receiving) in 2006. He won the AP NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) award that year.
All of that led up to 2017, where Tomlinson became a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Former Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal, Tomlinson’s teammate from 2003-07, will be the one to induct Tomlinson on Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio.
“It’s truly a surreal feeling,” Tomlinson said during the phone interview.
The five-time Pro Bowler accomplished so much in San Diego. While the year Tomlinson set the record for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season will always be a time to remember, another moment stands out to the former Chargers running back.
“Our first division title that we won and going to the playoffs, that was certainly a significant moment I would say because it kind of turned the tide of our entire organization,” he said. “The year before I got there, the Chargers were 1-15. So to look three years later (2004) and we were winning our first division title, it was truly a great moment at that time.”
The Chargers won a total of five division titles with Tomlinson on the team. They haven’t placed first since 2009, Tomlinson’s final year as a San Diego Charger.
Perhaps new head coach Anthony Lynn can help turn things around. Lynn, who was Tomlinson’s running backs coach in New York, possessed head-coaching qualities early on, according to Tomlinson. Tomlinson stated that Lynn was a “natural born leader.”
And despite finishing with back-to-back losing seasons, the Chargers are sneakily talented, which gives Lynn a chance to succeed. Los Angeles has been deemed one of the sleeper teams heading into the 2017 season.
When asked about whether or not the Chargers can make a serious run in 2017, LT believes the team can do it.
“You think about just the games they lost last year, they were in every game probably except for one,” Tomlinson said. “They could have won all of those games and so just with the luck of a couple of breaks, they win those games. And I just think, barring any kind of injuries to our core guys, I expect us to be in every single game.
“And when you have No. 17 Philip Rivers back there commanding the huddle and commanding the offense, you will have a chance to pull out those games more times than not. So I expect that to happen this year.”
Thanks to Panini America, a company that produces trading cards and collectibles, I was able to get this one-on-one interview with LT. Tomlinson and Panini America work together to create trading cards honoring his career, which date back to his playing days at TCU to his Hall of Fame induction.
Click below to listen to the entire interview.