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#21 is the Best Player on the Planet

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by JTango32, Dec 23, 2006.

  1. JTango32

    JTango32 BoltTalker

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    The article in its entirety is way too long, so I had to cut some of it out, however you can click on this link to read it off the web. It is the most revealing article I have ever read about LT from an out of town newspaper.

    http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/football/296843_tomlinson22.html

    Hawks get ready for San Diego's Tomlinson

    SAN DIEGO -- With a football in his hands, LaDainian Tomlinson might be the most exciting man in America.

    His face hidden behind a black visor, the San Diego Chargers tailback makes cuts the NFL hasn't seen since the heyday of Barry Sanders, leaving stiff-armed linebackers and league records in his wake.

    As a teammate says, "LT is the king of the NFL."

    Without a football, however, the king is about as exciting as a sack lunch. Take away the diamond-studded hoop earrings and he could be anyone, a soft-spoken waiter or a bank teller. There is no hint of NFL superstar.

    While his teammates carouse the bars and clubs of San Diego's Gaslamp District, Tomlinson can be found at his home in suburban Poway with his wife, LaTorsha, and their dogs (a pair of pocket dogs named Coco and Fendi for her; a pit bull named Sweetness, after idol Walter Payton, for him).

    While other superstars invent ever more ridiculous methods of on-field self-aggrandizement, Tomlinson, who has accomplished more than any of them, greets each milestone by seeking out his offensive linemen for handshakes and hugs. When he was selected to the Pro Bowl after the 2004 season, Tomlinson paid for the entire line to go to Hawaii with him.

    Every home-game Sunday, after being pounded on for three hours, Tomlinson soaks in a hot tub and then takes 21 underprivileged kids, called "The 21 Club," out to dinner and sends them home with bags of school supplies. Before his head hits the pillow, he has usually gone over the basic defensive schemes of the next week's opponent.

    "Soft-spoken, hard-working, incredibly focused," Chargers center Nick Hardwick says of the man who has led San Diego to eight consecutive victories heading into Sunday's game against the Seahawks at Qwest Field. "He's got his mind-set on things above what normal professional athletes have their minds set on.

    "He wants to be more than a football player, he wants to be more than a Pro Bowler. He wants to be the best that's ever been on the field. That's his approach, and you can tell every time he steps on the field how serious he is."

    "There's definitely satisfaction (about the touchdown record), though. As you get close to the record, you start thinking about it and people start talking about it, and when it happens it becomes a relief. My thought process was, 'OK, it's over. Now you can just play football without people talking about it.' "

    Fat chance. People are going to be talking about Tomlinson for a long time.

    "I've said it before: He is the finest running back to ever wear an NFL uniform," said Schottenheimer -- who played against Jim Brown. "At some point you just run out of superlatives."

    Small back, big heart

    Even with all that talent, there's every reason Tomlinson shouldn't be where he is, shouldn't be who he is.

    He could have ended up dead in a street fight or locked up in prison, the fates that befell two of the five older half-siblings his father had out of wedlock. He might have ended up at a small college where he'd never have gotten noticed, which is what happens to most undersized players who play only a year at tailback in high school. He could have fallen into the lazy work habits and dangerous lifestyles of many of those around him.

    Tomlinson has always credited his mother, Loreane Chappell, with giving him the opportunities and the character to succeed. In college he had her face tattooed on his bicep, but had the misfortune of selecting a tattoo parlor without a dictionary -- under her face were inked the words, "MY INSPERATION."

    "She's been instrumental in my life for a long time, and still is," Tomlinson said. "Mom has always been there."

    Tomlinson's father, Oliver, was a builder of mobile homes in tiny Marlin, Texas, who was permanently disabled by a back injury when LaDainian was 4 and left the family when he was 7. By then, he'd given his son a love for football, and in particular for the Dallas Cowboys.

    Chappell supported the family working in a hospital, and managed to set aside enough money to send Tomlinson to the football camp of new Cowboys star Emmitt Smith. Tomlinson was inspired -- here was a similarly undersized back who had achieved greatness. Why not Tomlinson?

    His next obstacle was Leroy Coleman, the football coach at Waco's University High School. Coleman's system was clear: seniors carry the ball, underclassmen block for them. Tomlinson was a linebacker as a sophomore and a fullback as a junior. Just when he'd earned his shot to carry the ball, Chappell landed a real estate job in Dallas. Reluctantly, she agreed to let Tomlinson stay behind in Waco with a family friend for his senior year.

    Tomlinson rushed for 2,554 yards and 39 touchdowns in 15 games, leading his team deep into the high-stakes Texas prep playoffs. But the big programs such as Texas weren't knocking at his door. At 5-feet-10 and 195 pounds, he was considered small and some questioned his durability. Plus he hadn't hit anyone's radar until his senior year.

    Tomlinson showcased his skills at all the state all-star games, where he became friends with a pair of future Chargers teammates, Purdue-bound quarterback Drew Brees and Texas signee and cornerback Quentin Jammer.

    "He was just a guy in the game, just like a lot of us were," Jammer said. "We knew what colleges people were going to, but other than that ... we were just guys trying to do something with our lives. Now he's the king of the NFL. Who knew?"

    Genuine, humble superstar

    The king of the NFL occupies probably the worst locker at the Chargers' practice facility, jammed into the back corner of a tiny alcove, the same small space where Ryan Leaf once famously berated a reporter.

    Tomlinson doesn't care -- sitting at his locker isn't a big part of his day. He goes through what by all accounts is one of the most grueling year-round conditioning programs in the NFL, and has never missed a game because of injury.

    "Keep working, that's it," Tomlinson said of his regimen. "Just keep working and good things happen."

    When good things happen, Tomlinson is quick to credit his linemen, an approach that worked well for Sanders and Smith. He mentions his blockers in every interview, and took them aside to thank them in advance before last week's record-setting game.

    "LT's the biggest superstar in the NFL right now, and he's the most humble guy you'll meet," rookie tackle Marcus McNeill said. "He's real genuine. I don't know if that's because he's country or what, but you enjoy blocking for a back like that who's humble and pats you on your back for every yard he gets."

    "I don't think there's anybody out there better right now, as far as a man and a player," Jammer said. "Best player in the league, and he carries himself like he was a rookie. He listens to people. He's a real humble guy, and he doesn't let all the hype get to him. I love him the way he is, and I think the people in the league respect him for the way he carries himself. He has character.

    "When people celebrate (in the end zone), they celebrate themselves. He knows that everything he does, there's a team effort behind it."

    So don't expect any Terrell Owens-type antics, no matter what stratosphere Tomlinson hits. Handing the ball to the official is more LT's style.

    "He doesn't have to do the Chad Johnson or T.O. or any of the other guys who get in the end zone and act like (idiots) and try to draw attention to themselves," Hardwick said. "His play speaks for itself. Everybody respects his game."


    'He is San Diego right now'

    Looking around San Diego, you won't find giant Tomlinsons plastered to the sides of buildings, or "LT for MVP" posters in shop windows. The frenzy is subdued, which, considering the man and the city, seems entirely fitting.

    "It doesn't feel like anything, to be honest with you," Tomlinson said of being the biggest thing in town. "It's not really a big deal to me. The great thing about San Diego is people are laid back. It's not like you're in Chicago or something where people are always bugging you for autographs. San Diego is real laid back and a nice city. I like it here."

    Even his teammates don't bother him.

    "I've been waiting two years for an autograph," Hardwick said. "I've got a jersey sitting in the bottom of my locker, and I'm afraid to ask him for an autograph because I know he's signed so many. I might do that at some point.

    "You don't see many jerseys around here besides 21 jerseys. Maybe a few (Shawne) Merriman jerseys sprinkled in here and there, but it's all about No. 21 right now. He is San Diego right now."

    There is at least one Tomlinson jersey in San Diego this week that's purple and bears No. 5. Tomlinson on Tuesday night attended the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium with his Chargers backup, Michael Turner. The game pitted TCU against Turner's alma mater, Northern Illinois, and a Horned Frogs victory meant Turner had to wear Tomlinson's TCU jersey the rest of the week.

    "You can't necessarily tell, but he's a fun guy," guard Mike Goff said. "He holds the single-season record, but he jokes around and is just one of the guys. That's what just makes you want to work that much harder for him, because he's such a great guy and such a joy to be around.

    "If we have to ride his shoulders to the Super Bowl, that's fine with me."
     
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  2. JTango32

    JTango32 BoltTalker

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  3. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

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    I love the stat at the end. LT having 2.5 times as many TDs as the whole Turd offense is very, very funny. LT 31, Raiders 12.

    Come on. How can you score only 12 touchdowns in 14 games? Didn't add any last night either, so 15 now. That may be the worst offense of all time except the early Tampa Bay years.
     
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  4. Alpenbolt

    Alpenbolt BoltTalker

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    An even more remarkable stat.

    The leader in touchdowns for the Raiders?

    Randy Moss with 3. 3 for the whole season!!!!!

    LT does that in a half on a routine basis.
     
  5. Nomadic Bolt Fan

    Nomadic Bolt Fan Well-Known Member

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    Great article, thanks for sharing.

    :ABQ2: :lt: :ABQ1:
     
  6. MtlBoltsFan

    MtlBoltsFan Jesse Ventura/Howard Stern 2016

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    LT articles are annoying. Every week there are like 20 articles on LT and not one of them says anything I haven't already heard like 500 times in the past. Why are we tolerating this chit? Why is Peter King the only half decent football writer on this planet?
     
  7. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

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    Cheer up lil buckaroo. If you pout you will get coal in your stocking...:yes:
     
  8. rexy2006

    rexy2006 Well-Known Member

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    You can kiss my tail, MTL.

    LT is a god, get over it.:yes:
     
  9. rexy2006

    rexy2006 Well-Known Member

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    Great find, JT!

    LT is THE MAN.:helm3:
     
  10. MtlBoltsFan

    MtlBoltsFan Jesse Ventura/Howard Stern 2016

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    It has nothing to do with that. It's just... why can't there be some articles on like David Binn and Cam Cameron or something
     
  11. rexy2006

    rexy2006 Well-Known Member

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    La La La La La La...I can't hear you...La La La La La La

    Never pegged you for a whiner.
     
  12. Johnny Lightning

    Johnny Lightning Go Bolts

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    :lol:
     

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