Tomlinson a star on, off the field
By Finn Curran
Special to The Advertiser
By Finn Curran
Whether it's fantasy or reality, San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson is every owner's dream acquisition.
With his ability to run, catch and throw, Tomlinson has statistics in fantasy — a virtual game based on compilation of game statistics — that are incredible; his real-life statistics aren't bad, either.
The 5-foot-10, 221-pounder is only the third player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,200 yards in each of his first five seasons. He established an NFL record by scoring a rushing touchdown in 18 consecutive games. However, when asked if he pays attention to his enormous impact on fantasy football, Tomlinson replied, "No, not really."
At this week's practice at the Ihilani Resort and Spa, the former Texas Christian star seemed just as carefree rushing the ball as he was answering that question.
As he juggled the ball and made limited moves, it seemed as if Tomlinson is more focused on next season's possibilities than today's Pro Bowl game.
Tomlinson said his goals are to "become a better player and a person, and obviously, you know, win a Super Bowl of course and just cement my legacy."
Tomlinson already is building a legacy in San Diego, both as a player and a person.
Charger fullback Lorenzo Neal once referred to Tomlinson as "Superman without a cape." Head coach Marty Schottenheimer once remarked that Tomlinson is the finest running back he has ever seen.
With Tomlinson's 1,809 total yards (1,462 rushing) and 23 touchdowns in this past season, it is easy to see why Schottenheimer would make such a comment.
Those totals were short of Tomlinson's preseason goal of 2,200 rushing yards. However, Tomlinson was injured for four weeks before the end of the season. He played with cracked ribs and failed to post a 100-yard game during those weeks. Despite that, Tomlinson managed to finish the year with a third Pro Bowl selection.
A LONG WORK DAY
Becoming a better player comes at a price. Tomlinson logs about 60 hours in a six-day work week at the Chargers' football facilities.
Tomlinson detailed his workout this way: "Get in about 7, lift weights, have meetings at about 8:30, lunch time starts about 11:20 and about an hour for lunch, then we got another meeting, and then we got practice, and I usually get home at about 5."
"He definitely does some hard workouts, running hills, agility, just everything," said Neal, who has participated in workouts with Tomlinson and his trainer. "He does a lot of running, a lot of core stuff — sometimes two times, three times a day. He just strives for perfection."
In between being a hard-working superstar and a husband, Tomlinson finds time to engage in charity events as well.
The "21 Club" — Tomlinson's jersey is No. 21 — is an organization he has led and sponsored that brings children from youth groups and nonprofit organizations to San Diego Charger home games.
After the games, the kids are treated to dinner with Tomlinson and given bags full of toys and games.
"LaDainian is about helping people, giving back to the community, giving back to people who are less fortunate," said Neal, who called Tomlinson a role model and a leader. "That's what it's about. That's why he's a champion, and a great man."
His community appearances led him to a chance meeting with another running back from San Diego; one who could take aim at Tomlinson's Pro Bowl spot one day.
University of Southern California running back Reggie Bush, who wore the San Diego area code of "619" on his eye black, won the Heisman Trophy, and likely will be the No. 1 draft pick for the Houston Texans in April.
Tomlinson met Bush "out of high school at a sports banquet" and over the summer, Tomlinson invited Bush to see what his workouts are like and give him a taste of the NFL.
In their workout Tomlinson said Bush "did a great job of keeping up," and according to Tomlinson, the outlook for Bush is that "he'll do well, play many positions and be like a wild card."
Tomlinson received similar praise coming out of college and followed up the hype by becoming the best running back in Chargers history.
The Chargers hope that Tomlinson's success can extend to next season and beyond.
With a rock-solid defense, a great tight end in Antonio Gates, an offense that ranked fourth in the conference and the healthy return of injured quarterback Drew Brees, Tomlinson might be able to reach two of his goals — rushing for 2,200 yards in a season, and winning a Super Bowl.