By Gail Wood
Maybe he should just change his nickname from “LT” to “TD.”
LaDainian Tomlinson, the San Diego Chargers tailback, is a virtual touchdown factory.
Against the Oakland Raiders in game 6 of the 2005 season, Tomlinson accounted for three touchdowns. In a remarkable 27-14 Chargers win in Oakland, he ran for 140 yards on 31 carries, threw a 4-yard TD pass and grabbed a 35-yard TD toss.
In that game, he equaled Lenny Moore’s NFL record for consecutive games with a touchdown at 18, but he didn’t score the following week.
“I used to reference him as one of the best I have ever seen,” Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer says about Tomlinson. “Now, I believe he is the best running back I have ever seen in professional football.”
Tomlinson is convincing.
Fast (4.3 seconds for 40 yards) and strong (bench presses 440 pounds), Tomlinson is a mix of power and speed. His senior year at Texas Christian University, he ran for a NCAA Division-I record 406 yards and six touchdowns on 46 carries against the Texas-El Paso Miners. As the Chargers’ first-round draft pick in 2001, he hasn’t disappointed.
“The best part about it,” says Schottenheimer, “given all the success he has had, he is absolutely driven by one thing and that is a pride that he wants to be the best.”
In Tomlinson’s first four seasons with the Chargers, he rushed for 4,564 yards and scored 42 touchdowns. In 2003, Tomlinson became the first player in NFL history to rush for more than 1,000 yards and catch 100 passes in the same season.
He joined David Patten (2001), Walter Payton (1979), Harmon Wages (1969) and Dan Reeves (1967) as the only players to score on a run, throw and catch in a game.
But behind the touchdowns, the records and the headline-grabbing performances is a humble man who credits God and his mother for his accomplishments.
The middle of three children, Tomlinson grew up in Waco, Texas, playing football, basketball and baseball. On Sundays he was in church sitting next to his mother, Loreane Chappell.
“My mother always had a good heart; I guess that’s where I got mine from,” Tomlinson told a Texas Christian University publication. “She always kept us in church, and in my freshman year of high school I realized that Jesus Christ is for real. Without Him, I can’t do anything.”
Tomlinson’s message is of a loving God who knows and cares about you.
“He knows how many hairs are on your head,” he added.
To Charger fans, he’s LT. To his wife, LaTorsha, he’s the encouraging word in times of trouble. Last year the couple suffered a miscarriage. Tomlinson doesn’t blame God. Instead, his faith is unwavering, recognizing that God is there during the good and the bad times.
While good in basketball and baseball in high school, Tomlinson had a special knack for carrying the football. In his senior year at University High in Waco, he rushed for 2,554 yards and scored 39 touchdowns.
Recruited by Baylor and Kansas State, Tomlinson, who was born June 23, 1979, in Rosebud, Texas, chose TCU, determined to make it to the NFL. At TCU, he became only the second player in college to rush for 2,000 yards in a season and 5,000 yards in a career.
While Tomlinson has seemingly been given all the world has to offer, he dodges feelings of self-sufficiency like he does defenders and reminds himself of the power of the Cross.
Like everyone else, he needed the forgiveness only Christ can grant.
Gail Wood is a freelance writer living in Washington state.
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