After a spectacular career at TCU, former Horned Frogs running back LaDainian Tomlinson has earned his place alongside college football’s greatest players.Nearly a month after being named to the 16-man College Football Hall of Fame class of 2014, Tomlinson returned to the TCU campus as part of his annual LaDainian Tomlinson Preparatory Academy Youth Clinic. Tomlinson, a first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers in 2001, led the nation in rushing as a junior and senior in 1999 and 2000. He also won the Doak Walker Award in 2000, presented annually to the nation’s top running back. He finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting as a senior.Hall induction ceremonies are set for Dec. 9 in New York.Tomlinson’s academy, in downtown Fort Worth, helps athletes in grades 6-11 and gives them the skills to become a better player. It assists in academics, attitude, exposure and recruiting.Since retiring, Tomlinson has been active in television, joining the cast of NFL Network’s First on the Field in 2012 and hosting Top 5 Running Backs each week in 2013. After a news conference Friday, Tomlinson took part in the Chillin’ For Charity Challenge by dumping gallons of water on members of the TCU women’s basketball team. The charity supports the Kay Yow Foundation. Yow was the women’s coach at North Carolina State for 34 years, but lost her battle with breast cancer in 2009. Players and coaches across the country take part by challenging others. Each time a challenge is accepted, a donation of $50 to the foundation is in your name. If not accepted, each person elects to donate $250.Just for fun, Tomlinson challenged his former Chargers teammate Drew Brees to take part. What’s it feel like to be back on campus? It’s always great to come back and see old friends and even old faces like coach [Gary] Patterson. I always look forward to meeting new guys here. That’s always very exciting for me, because those guys still look at me like a great TCU legend. It feels good to know that those guys, when I played, were little kids and they still remember. What’s your message to the players? Just keep the tradition that we have started. Maintain a great reputation that TCU has. What are your thoughts on being inducted into the College Hall of Fame? It was unexpected to me, I didn’t think about going in. I got the call from the president of the [National Football Foundation] and they told me that I was going in. Initially, I couldn’t believe what he just said. I got overwhelmed with emotions because my journey wasn’t the smoothest journey to the College Football Hall of Fame. I didn’t get many offers to come play football and TCU was one of the first. What will be your Hall of Fame message or speech be about? Even in high school, I was trying to get my shot, and it’s been like that for my entire career. It was the same way when I first got to TCU, and finally earning a starting job. Hearing coach Fran [Dennis Franchione] say ‘I need you to play fullback,’ and those types of things keep you dedicated and committed and even selfless on a team with 70, 80 guys on the team. So that’s no doubt what it’ll be about ... dedication, hard work, persevere, selfless attitude. Did you ever think you had a shot at making the hall of fame? I didn’t know because I heard a staggering number to get in. Something like 5 million have played college football and only like 900 have got into the College Football Hall of Fame. I think that’s less than 1 percent, so that’s very difficult to do. At no time did I actually think that I would make it. I knew that I had a solid career, but I thought because I didn’t make my name until my junior year and still people were like ‘who’s this guy,’ and the year that I had the Heisman Trophy run, I was thinking it’s going to be tough for me to get in.
Brian Gosset, 817-390-7760