LaDainian Tomlinson is currently a running back for the New York Jets. Tomlinson, often referred to by his initials, L. T., has been selected to five Pro Bowls and has been an All-Pro six times.
Background and college
Born June 23, 1979 in Rosebud, Texas, Tomlinson attended University High School in Waco, Texas, where he played basketball, baseball, and football. Tomlinson began his football career as a linebacker, but blossomed on the offensive side of the ball. Tomlinson amassed 2,554 yards and 39 touchdowns his senior year, earning honors as the District 25-4A Most Valuable Player, Super Centex Offensive Player of the Year. Tomlinson was an avid Dallas Cowboys and Miami Hurricanes fan during his youth. He especially idolized Walter Payton, Jim Brown, and Emmitt Smith. He trained with Smith during a summer camp. In a later interview with ESPN, Tomlinson stated that his playing style and mentality were influenced by the three running backs.
Tomlinson signed with Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, a small school then in the Western Athletic Conference. During his freshman and sophomore years, he split time with Basil Mitchell. In the 1998 season he helped the Horned Frogs win its first bowl win in 41 years against the University of Southern California in the Sun Bowl. During his junior season in 1999, he set an NCAA record for yards in one game with 406 against UTEP. He ended the year with an NCAA-leading 1,850 yards rushing to go along with 18 touchdowns. In his senior season in 2000, Tomlinson led the NCAA for the second time with 2,158 yards and 22 touchdowns while adding 354 yards receiving. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's best running back, and was a finalist for the Heisman, but came in fourth. He completed his college career with 5,263 rushing yards, ranking sixth in NCAA Division I history. The school retired his jersey number (5) during halftime of a November 2005 game against UNLV.In December of that year, Tomlinson fulfilled a promise to his mother by earning his degree in communications from TCU.
Before the Jets
The San Diego Chargers selected Tomlinson with the fifth overall pick of the 2001 NFL Draft, and he immediately became the starting running back with the Chargers. He achieved immediate success in the NFL, rushing for over 1,200 yards and making over 50 receptions in each of his seven seasons. He has also proven to be effective as a passer, having completed eight career passes, seven of them for touchdowns and a career passer rating of 154.4.
In 2003, he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 receptions in the same season. He also reached his 50th career touchdown in his 4th season (60th game) and was elected to the Pro Bowl team in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006. Tomlinson also tied Lenny Moore's all-time record for consecutive games scoring a TD (18). On October 16, 2005, in the Chargers' victory over the Oakland Raiders, Tomlinson became the 7th player in NFL history to run, catch, and throw for a touchdown in the same game. Despite breaking his ribs towards the end of the 2005 season, he continued to play and finished the season with 1,462 rushing yards, 370 receiving yards, and a career high 20 touchdowns (18 rushing, 2 receiving).
In the 2006 season, he set NFL records by scoring 14 touchdowns in a span of 4 games, 16 touchdowns in span of 5 games, and 19 touchdowns in a span of 6 games, including a franchise record 4 touchdowns in games against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. He is the first to score three TDs in three straight games and became the first to score at least 3 in four straight games set the following week. Also, he became the second to have three games of four or more TDs in one season (Marshall Faulk became the first back in 2000). He became the fastest player ever to score 100 touchdowns. On November 19, 2006, Tomlinson accomplished the milestone in 89 games with 102, beating the previous record of 93 games held by Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith. On Dec. 3, 2006, Tomlinson became the first running back to rush for at least 1,236 yards in his first six NFL seasons (he has now done so in his first seven years as well).
He scored his 29th touchdown against the Denver Broncos in just 13 games (Alexander set the record in 16). With the first touchdown against Kansas City on December 17, he surpassed the most points in a season by an NFL player; one which had stood for 46 years. Tomlinson would finish his record breaking season with 2,323 yards from scrimmage (combined rushing and receiving) and 31 touchdowns (28 rushing, 3 receiving).
On January 4, 2007, Tomlinson was awarded with the NFL AP Most Valuable Player Award for his record-breaking season. Tomlinson was also one of 9 Chargers players selected for the 2007 Pro Bowl and also a starting running back of the American Football Conference. He was also named AP Offensive Player of the Year and later named NBC Player of the Year. On December 2, 2007 Tomlinson passed Walter Payton on the all time rushing touchdown list, with his 111th career rushing TD, against Kansas City. A few days later, Tomlinson honored Payton by wearing his jersey during a press conference. Tomlinson led the league in rushing with a total of 1,474 rushing yards in 2007, becoming the first player since Edgerrin James in 2000, to win back-to-back rushing titles. 2008.
Tomlinson did not participate in the Chargers' offseason program in 2008 because of injury. Much like the previous year, Tomlinson got off to a slow start, not having a 100-yard rushing performance until week 4 against the Raiders while having averaged just 3.3 yards per carry the first 3 weeks. Tomlinson averaged just 17 carries per game up to midseason and had only had four rushing touchdown and one receiving touchdown. Though Tomlinson managed only two 100-yard rushing performances on the season, he managed to top the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the 8th consecutive time in his career which placed him third all-time alongside Thurman Thomas for consecutive 1,000-yard rushing seasons behind Curtis Martin, Barry Sanders and Emmitt Smith. He ended the seasons with a career-low 1,110 rushing yards on a career-low 292 attempts and 11 touchdowns thanks to a three-touchdown performance in the final game of the 2008 season. He also moved up the all-time list of touchdowns, getting his 126th rushing touchdown, which passed Marcus Allen's 123 and his 141st touchdown moved him closer to Marcus Allen's 145 total touchdowns in a career which is tied for third all-time with wide receiver Terrell Owens, behind Emmitt Smith (175) and Jerry Rice (208). Tomlinson partially tore his groin in the finale against Denver. He played the first half in the wild-card round against the Colts before re-injuring the groin and missing the Charger's divisional loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After a contentious off-season negotiation, Tomlinson and the Chargers came to an agreement on March 10, 2009 to restructure his three-year contract so that he could remain a Charger. On December 6, 2009, Tomlinson moved into eighth place on the career rushing list, passing both Jim Brown and Marshall Faulk, while becoming the fastest player to 150 career touchdowns in the same game. The Chargers released Tomlinson on February 22, 2010 after nine seasons with the team.
As a Jet
For the first time in his career, Tomlinson entered the free-agent market, with many teams expressing interest. Despite the fact that Tomlinson still believed that he was a number one caliber running back, he would be forced to split time with another running back and after various contract negotiations, Tomlinson signed a two-year, $5.2 million contract with the Jets on March 14, 2010. Tomlinson chose to sign because he felt more comfortable with the team's philosophy, personnel and he felt the team offered him the best chance to win a championship.
Tomlinson recorded his first 100-yard rushing game in nearly two years on October 3, 2010 against the Buffalo Bills. In the game Tomlinson also passed Tony Dorsett for 7th on the all time rushing list. On October 31, 2010, Tomlinson reached another career milestone joining Walter Payton as the only players in NFL history to gain 13,000 yards rushing and 4,000 yards receiving. On December 6, 2010 against the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, Tomlinson passed Eric Dickerson for 6th on the all time rushing list. On December 19, 2010 Tomlinson reached another milestone by passing Marcus Allen for 6th on the all time yards from scrimmage list. He finished the season leading the Jets in rushing with 914 yards, though it was widely thought he would be a complement to Shonn Greene, whom he outrushed by 148 yards. It was also Tomlinson's first year in his entire career that he did not record double-digit TDs, as he recorded a career low of 6.
He rushed for 82 yards on 16 attempts and ran for both Jets touchdowns in a 17–16 victory over the Colts in the AFC wild card playoffs. Against the Patriots in the AFC Divisional playoffs, the Jets won 28–21 as Tomlinson rushed for 49 yards on 10 attempts and caught a touchdown. It was his 7th career postseason touchdown. In the AFC Championship Game against the Steelers, the Jets were down 24–10 in the fourth quarter when Tomlinson was unable to score a touchdown on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line. The Jets went on to lose 24–19, Tomlinson had nine carries for 16 yards.
Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum said after the season that he expected Tomlinson back for 2011 but "things could change." With Greene designated as the starting running back for 2011, Tomlinson began the season as a third-down back and caught six passes for 73 yards in the season opener. On September 25, 2011 against Oakland Tomlinson caught an 18-yard touchdown pass for his 160th career touchdown, joining Emmitt Smith and Jerry Rice as the only players to score 160 career touchdowns. On October 9, 2011 against New England Tomlinson became the 6th player in NFL history to reach 18,000 yards from scrimmage. On October 23, 2011 against the San Diego Chargers, Tomlinson became the 4th running back in NFL history to have 600 career receptions, joining Larry Centers, Marshall Faulk, and Keith Byars. On November 13, 2011 against the Patriots, Tomlinson passed Barry Sanders for 5th on the all time yards from scrimmage list. On December 18, 2011 against the Philadelphia Eagles, Tomlinson passed Keith Byars for 3rd on the all time career receptions list for running backs. On January 1, 2012 against the Miami Dolphins, Tomlinson passed Jerome Bettis for 5th on the all time rushing yards list.
Tomlinson was introduced to his future wife, LaTorsha Oakley, while the two were students at TCU. They married on March 21, 2003. The couple currently reside with their three dogs in Poway, a suburb of San Diego. LaTorsha is now expecting the couple's first child.
On February 23, 2007 in Waco, Texas; LaDainian's father, Oliver Tomlinson, and brother-in-law Ronald McClain, died in an auto accident from a blown tire, causing a one-vehicle rollover. McClain, 48, was taken by ambulance to Waco's Hillcrest Baptist Medical Center, where he died. Charlie Morgan of the Texas Department of Public Safety reported that both men were thrown from the pickup truck. Oliver, 71, was killed instantly, while McClain reached the hospital but subsequently died. LaDainian said he was devastated by these events but that the words and lessons given to him by his father will always live in him.
Tomlinson has been featured in several commercials for Nike, Campbell Soup and Vizio. In April 2007, he turned down a request to become the cover athlete and official spokesperson for EA Sports' Madden NFL 08 video game. Tennessee Titans quarterback Vince Young was eventually selected for the cover.