Today, June 18th, LaDainian Tomlinson has officially retired as a San Diego Charger. Tomlinson decided to give up on testing the free agency market and hang up his cleats with the team that drafted him. He signed a 1 day contract and made the retirement official at his 11 a.m. (PT) press conference. Tomlinson’s career has come full circle, ending in the city where it all began.
The date is April 21, 2001. The San Diego Chargers had the first pick in the NFL Draft. Instead of choosing to draft QB prospect Michael Vick, the Chargers chose to trade the pick to the Atlanta Falcons. Moving down to the fifth pick in the draft, the San Diego Chargers selected LaDainian Tomlinson of Texas Christian University. The Chargers were one of the worst teams in the league and the high power running back was exactly what they needed. Little did analysts know, the Chargers had struck gold.
Tomlinson would run 1,000+ yards in his first three seasons but his running game had little impact on the Chargers playoff chances. Yet in 2004, he led the Chargers to their first AFC West title in over a decade. As the years went on, LT would keep making history for the organization. He set the NFL record for most touchdowns in a single season with 28 touchdowns. He was the first Chargers player to ever be named the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 2006. He also led them to their first playoff win of the 2000’s in 2008. His run production began to slow down though and the Chargers transitioned into a passing team led by Phillip Rivers. He would be let go by the Chargers in 2009 then sign with the New York Jets in 2010 and 2011. The Jets would make it to the AFC Championship game in 2010 and be one game away from the Super Bowl. The Jets came up short and Tomlinson’s chances at a championship were over. With no interest by any teams as a 2012 free agent, Tomlinson will retire a San Diego Charger.
Tomlinson will always be remembered as one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. There is no doubt that 10 years from now he will be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Tomlinson is a player who is loved in San Diego and founded the LT Foundation in order to help families in San Diego. The San Diego Chargers home opener will be one of the greatest days in Chargers history because it will be a day to retire the numbers of Junior Seau and LaDainian Tomlinson. Sadly, Tomlinson will be remembered as one of the greatest football players ever but also a player who never won a championship.
“I always think I can get better. I’m never satisfied. That’s why I keep working.”- LaDainian Tomlinson