LaDainian Tomlinson has recently decided to hand up his cleats and retire as a San Diego Charger. Though for the past few seasons he did not play at his previous high level of play that he enjoyed earlier in his career, it should not detract from the fact that he was the greatest running back of the past decade. LT burst onto the NFL scene as the fifth overall pick by the San Diego Chargers and was projected to be a bust on the epic scale of Ki-Jana Carter or Rashann Salaam, but like all great hall of fame players, Ladainian Tomlinson proved his doubters wrong…dead wrong.
During his tenure in San Diego, LaDainian Tomlinson became the 5th all time leading rusher in NFL history, won two NFL rushing titles, MVP honors, a 5 time Pro Bowler, and a 6 time All-Pro player. In addition, LT has the NFL’s all time record for touchdowns in a single season with 31 trips to the endzone. That record in particular is going to be even more spectacular in hindsight given the NFL’s progression towards a pass only league. These accomplishments as a whole completely warrant first ballot hall of famer status to one of the last all down running backs for the foreseeable future, especially when considering that most of his productivity came in a time span of only 6 to 7 seasons.
If there is one memory that will mare LT’s legacy in the eyes of many voters, the 2007 AFC Championship game when he he sat on the bench with his helmet on after being pulled out of the game due to injury. Some believe that this act was one of selfishness and should be condemned, that is the wrong way to look at that incident. The way that I remember that incident was that LT was absolutely crushed because he realized that his best years were behind him and he could not help his team, it was over. He was in no mood to be in the limelight.
In the end nobody will remember that moment or his time with the New York Jets, we will always remember Ladainian Tomlinson as the great player he was and for his accomplishments on the field. Entrence into the Hall of Fame should not be based on the number of rings a player has won, but instead should be based on the simple criterion of “was this player the best at his position in his prime” and LaDainian Tomlinson defiantly fits that simple criterion.