Today is former All-Pro running back LaDainian Tomlinson’s 37th birthday, so to celebrate we’d love to take a look back at his legendary career in the National Football League.
As the No. 5 overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft, the TCU standout was selected by the San Diego Chargers in the same draft class as future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees (SD’s second round pick). Incredible, huh?
Tomlinson, a five-time Pro Bowler, spent nine of his 11 years in the NFL with the Chargers, rushing for 1,100+ yards and double-digit touchdowns in each of his first eight seasons.
Throughout his NFL journey from 2001 to 2011, Tomlinson set numerous records, many of which he still holds today. He ran for 28 touchdowns in a season (31 total touchdowns), tied the record for most consecutive games with a touchdown (18), and is the fastest player to reach 15,000 career yards from scrimmage (121 games).
LT (he’s not the real LT, of course) is arguably the best player in San Diego Chargers’ franchise history:
*His No. 21 jersey is retired by the franchise.
*He’s the newest member of the San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame (2015), as one of 38 players to be selected for the honor since 1976.
*He’s also a member of the Chargers’ 50th Anniversary team.
He spent his final two seasons with the New York Jets, running for a combined 1,194 yards and seven touchdowns in 29 games (14 starts). He retired from the game on June 18, 2012, signing a one-day contract to hang up his cleats as a member of the San Diego Chargers.
In his 11 seasons, Tomlinson accumulated 13,684 rushing yards and 145 rushing touchdowns. These numbers easily place him amongst the all-time greats, as he’s top five in career rushing yards and top two in rushing touchdowns.
Tomlinson’s 162 total touchdowns puts him at third all-time, behind only Jerry Rice (208) and Emmitt Smith (175). And perhaps the most impressive part about this stat is that he did it in only 11 seasons, while Rice and Smith did it in 20 and 15 seasons, respectively.
Top 5 on the Career Rushing Yards List (# of seasons):
1. Emmitt Smith––18,355 yards (15)
2. Walter Payton––16,726 yards (13)
3. Barry Sanders––15,269 yards (10)
4. Curtis Martin––14,101 yards (11)
5. LaDainian Tomlinson––13,684 yards (11)
Bottom line: Tomlinson will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer next year, and we’ll get to see him enshrined into Canton for all eternity.
Happy 37th, LaDainian!
Photo: Kent Horner/Getty Images