LaDainian “LT” Tomlinson is now known as the electrifying running back that powered the early 2000’s San Diego Chargers offense, but many fans don’t know the origin of his storied career that began deep in the heart of Texas. Tomlinson was born in the town of Rosebud and attended University High School in Waco where he grabbed the attention of college programs during his senior season by rushing for 2,554 yards and 39 touchdowns. He was District MVP and an All-State selection. But that was just the beginning.
Tomlinson earned a scholarship to TCU, where he split running back duties with future NFL running back Basil Mitchell his first two seasons. He showed great promise and rushed for over 500 yards each year.
Tomlinson ran like a back who had been shot out of a cannon as the starter during his junior season. He finished with 1,850 yards and 19 touchdowns and lead the Horned Frogs to an improved record of 7-4. The season included a record-setting 43-carry, 406-yard, 6-touchdown game against the University of Texas El Paso and culminated with a win against East Carolina in the Mobile (Alabama) Bowl.
Tomlinson had an even better senior season in 2000 as the Frogs finished 10-1. LT led the NCAA in rushing with 2,158 yards and added 22 touchdowns. He also won multiple awards as the nation’s best running back, including the Doak Walker Award and the Jim Brown Trophy, and came in fourth place in voting for the Heisman Trophy. Tomlinson’s achievements at TCU have since earned him a place in the College Football Hall of Fame and the retirement of his No. 5 jersey in 2005.
LT was drafted with the fifth overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft by San Diego. He joined a rebuilding Chargers team that had only won one game the prior season. Tomlinson again exploded onto the scene his rookie year with 412 yards and six touchdowns in the first four games of his career. His pace slowed, but he was still a top-ten running back in yards and finished second in Rookie of the Year voting.
Tomlinson continued to find success with the Chargers, especially with the addition of Marty Schottenheimer as head coach in his second season. Schottenheimer ran an old school, hard-nosed style offense with a heavy emphasis on the running game. Tomlinson won numerous rushing titles and awards and never rushed for less than 1,300 yards under Schottenheimer. He was named the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year for his 1,815 rushing yards and 31 touchdowns in 2006. Tomlinson’s 28 rushing touchdowns, 31 total touchdowns, and 186 points remain NFL records.
Despite hitting his peak in 2006, Tomlinson continued to perform at a high level for years to come. He again led the league in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2007 and had over 1,000 rushing yards in both 2007 and 2008. LT left the Chargers after an injury-riddled 2009 season and played for the New York Jets under head coach Rex Ryan in 2010. In his first year with the Jets, Tomlinson played a key role in getting the run-first, defensive-minded team to the AFC Championship game, where they narrowly lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He played one more injury-plagued season for the Jets before officially retiring with the Chargers in 2011. LT was named to the NFL Hall of Fame in 2017.
Since retiring, Tomlinson has served as an in-studio analyst for the NFL Network show “First on the Field,” and is still with the network. Tomlinson also covers Chargers preseason games for CBS. Tomlinson’s most recent role has been to serve as a special assistant to ownership for the Los Angeles Chargers to help increase the team’s fanbase after relocating from San Diego in 2017.
LT is on the short list of the greatest running backs of all time for both professional and collegiate football. His impact on the TCU program is undeniable. He is a candidate for the Ideal Frog Award created by Ideal Partners to choose the greatest football Frog of all time. Go to https://www.idealpartners.com/vote-for-ideal-frog/ to learn more and cast your vote today.