- Adam Parker
The day has finally arrived.
The brilliant playing career of LaDainian Tomlinson has come full circle, as 'LT' makes his ceremonious return to the place where it all began to announce his retirement from the National Football League.
The Chargers said Sunday that Tomlinson, who was the NFL MVP and Offensive Player of the Year in 2006 with San Diego and is the fifth-leading rusher in league history, will re-sign with the team today and then immediately announce his retirement.
Tomlinson was drafted fifth overall in the first round by San Diego in 2001 and his stellar play quickly elevated him to become one of the biggest stars in team history, helping revive the Chargers after the devastating Ryan Leaf hangover and turning them into a perennial force in the AFC West. He would go on to spend the first nine years of his career in San Diego before finishing out his final two seasons as a member of the New York Jets.
Tomlinson's MVP award in 2006 was well-deserved. The former Texas Christian Horned Frog would tally a career-best 1,815 yards, giving him the first of two straight league rushing titles en route to to setting NFL single season records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points. That's a whole lot of patented finger roll touchdown celebrations.
Tomlinson finishes his career with 13,684 yards and 145 touchdowns.
When San Diego released Tomlinson in 2010, to say that the divorce wasn't an amicable one would be an understatement. The bad blood between LDT and Chargers general manager A.J. Smith was well publicized, as Tomlinson, even after signing with the Jets, continued to take shots at San Diego because of the bitterness he felt over the divorce.
But today is a happy day.
The storm cloud that's been lingering over San Diego for the better part of the last two years has finally disappeared and is being replaced with the greatest running back in Chargers' history making his triumphant homecoming.
Five years from now, Tomlinson will undoubtedly be introduced as a first ballot Hall of Famer in Canton, and it will be solely as a Charger.
LT's retirement announcement not only signifies the end of one of the top five greatest running backs to ever play the game, or one of the top three Chargers ever -- it also signifies the final act, the end of an era where teams solely relied on one player to be that 'feature back' in their offense.
Tomlinson may not have been the biggest guy, but he played with more heart than arguably any other player that I've ever seen.
Whether it was those vintage ankle-breaking jump-cuts, the long touchdown runs that eventually became routine, or even picking up the blitz. Tomlinson consistently dominated in all facets of the game, and he now joins Hall of Famer Marshall Faulk as one of the two best all-around backs over the past 15 years.
If you want to talk about electrifying, game-changing players, LT fits the bill. While being the focal point for the Bolts' offense, he tallied eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and was as close to automatic as you can get around the goal line. The man was unstoppable. No matter where he was on the field, he was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.
Today marks a fitting end to the career of one of the greatest running backs, no, greatest players to ever put on a uniform.
But now that LT has hung up his cleats for the final time, will we ever see another like him?
Not a chance.