Entering Sunday’s game against the Eagles, LaDainian Tomlinson’s 2009 had been one to forget.
Six weeks in, the Chargers were 2-3 and looking through binoculars to see the 6-0 Denver Broncos at the top of the AFC West division.
Tomlinson had missed two of those games and had accumulated just 140 yards and caught five passes out of the backfield.
Questions began to be asked on whether this was the same LT that we had been spoiled to watch the last eight seasons. After all, he had just turned 30, the breaking point for running backs, and spell running back Darren Sproles had signed a one-year tender the year before and looked as though “feature back” would be his new title.
LT contemplated retirement and spoke of how he is beginning to cherish moments more because he knows he might be on his curtain call as an NFL player.
For a guy looking to cherish the moment more, the scene at his locker before Sunday’s game against the Eagles should certainly be added to the list.
As he entered the locker room, a purple bag sat in front of his locker. Inside was a positive pregnancy test that his wife LaTorsha had put there. Pretty special, right?
Throw in the fact that LaTorsha had suffered a miscarriage four years earlier when the Tomlinsons were expecting their first child, and it becomes a tearjerker.
LT called his wife as soon as he received the test and cried for five minutes on the phone, telling his wife how amazing she was. Take note, Travis Henry: This is what a real man looks like.
Forget the rap music or the pre-game chest bumps. LT had all the motivation he needed to go out and produce for his wife and unborn child. A season-high 96 rushing yards and two touchdowns later, LT and the Chargers were celebrating their fourth victory in a row and a tie in the AFC West in terms of record.
For the eight-plus years he has been in the league, Tomlinson has been one of the most likable guys on the field. It if weren’t for the fact that he has found the end zone 131 times in his career, more AFC opponents would probably like him.
The ultimate team player, LT will forever be remembered for his NFL-record 31 touchdowns in 2006. What might have gone over people’s heads was his post-game comment after he broke the record.
“Once I got over the pylon, my initial thought process was to bring every guy on the offensive unit over to share that moment,” Tomlinson said. “When we’re old and can’t play this game anymore, them are the moments we are going to remember, that we’ll be able to tell our kids, tell our grandchildren. We can talk about something special that we did. We made history today.”
Whoa, whoa, whoa…we made history? Yes, that’s the kind of guy Tomlinson is and has always been. He rarely trash talks or goes to the media to air his concerns. Rather, he speaks through that intimidating pitch-black visor and the lightning-quick cuts that we could watch for days on end.
We sometimes hate to see good things happen to bad people, and we surely hate to see bad things happen to good people, but when good things happen to great people, it makes up for it all. That’s exactly what Tomlinson’s situation was last Sunday.
Losing your first child in 2005 and your father in a car accident two years later is something none of us want to go through, but how much of a reward must it have been for Tomlinson to open that bag?
With the Chargers sitting at 6-3 and a rejuvenated Tomlinson in their backfield, the Chargers look poised to make a playoff run. Turning points happen all the time for teams and players that make championships happen, and it looks as though Tomlinson just found his.
Twelfth in rushing yards and third in total touchdowns, Tomlinson is a first ballot Hall of Famer because of what he has done on the field. Before this season, he had never missed more than one game. For a running back who has carried the rock over 300 times seven out of his nine seasons, that’s not half bad.
His time might be running out, but there isn’t an organization out there that would turn Tomlinson away. The Chargers’ offensive line has struggled this season, and LT has taken some of the blame for lacking the speed he once had, but if the Chargers decide to decline the $5 million they have to pay him next season, he is sure to quickly find a new home.
It’s one of the best feel-good stories that we could have heard, especially after hearing way too much about the Larry Johnsons and Allen Iversons of the world.
Congrats on the 96 rushing yards and win over the Eagles, LT. But even more importantly, congrats on the news of your first child. To say you’ve earned it is an understatement.