LaDainian Tomlinson ready for life's new challenges

Posted Friday, Jun. 22, 2012  comments  Print Reprints
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LaDainian Tomlinson sprinted off the Amon G. Carter Stadium turf almost 12 years ago into the NFL. Friday, he returned to his Horned Frogs home and said another goodbye to a Hall of Fame career.

In between, he did a whole lot of something right.

Tomlinson left pro football with a bucket full of records and feats. TCU's all-time leading rusher sits fifth on the NFL's all-time rushing list with 13,684 yards, ranking behind only career leader Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin. Tomlinson holds the single-season records for touchdowns and points.

His place alongside gridiron greats is secure, even if Tomlinson isn't sure just where.

"I do feel good about what I've accomplished," he said Friday at the Moncrief Club inside Amon G. Carter Stadium. "I've never been a guy to really get into rankings. For me, I prided myself on being able to do everything on the football field."

Tomlinson retired at 33 years old.

The wear and tear of more than 3,000 carries took a toll, robbing LT of the explosiveness and production he displayed throughout his 20s. But those 20s were a glorious time for the best running back in football.

The five-time Pro Bowler won two NFL rushing titles, but never an NFL championship. While Tomlinson played on some very good teams in San Diego -- and with the Jets -- a trip to the Super Bowl eluded No. 21.

A regret, sure. But he's ready to move on to the next phase in life, knowing he gave it his best. There are no second thoughts, and he vows his first retirement will be his last.

"After playing football for 20 years, you become accustomed to the structure of football and preparing yourself every day physically, mentally to play on Sundays," Tomlinson said. "Not doing that makes it tough because you're not competing anymore.

"I had all off-season and thought about it for about five months until just recently I made the decision. I wanted to make sure this was it and this was what I really wanted to do."

Tomlinson has business interests to manage. He may dabble in broadcasting to stay close to the game. (He approves of the new college football playoff system.) He also plans to be a regular at TCU's newly renovated stadium to cheer on the Big 12-bound Horned Frogs.

"When we played here at TCU, we always felt like we were slighted," Tomlinson said, reflecting on how far TCU has come.

"We always felt like people didn't give us respect, that we could play with the bigger programs, we just didn't get the opportunity and so now to see that it's here and they're going to the Big 12 ...it makes be proud. I feel like the program has grown up, they're big boys now and it's time to play ball."

It's been a difficult off-season.

Tomlinson's close friend and Chargers legend Junior Seau committed suicide in May. Tomlinson delivered a moving tribute at a memorial for Seau, recalling the people impacted positively by his longtime teammate.

Tomlinson is making his own impact.

Being active in the community sells him short. He's conducted camps and worked with children in Fort Worth, San Diego, Waco and around the country through his Touching Lives Foundation.

There's also the LaDainian Tomlinson Preparatory Academy, which is designed to help students achieve their dreams of playing college sports.

"Football was something that I really enjoyed, but it was more on the entertainment side. It brought joy to people," Tomlinson said.

"I had fun doing it, but I always felt my lasting legacy would be the things I do off the field, the things I do for others, the things that I pass on hopefully to my kids. To me that's what it's all about."

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