LaDainian Tomlinson, the versatile and prolific running back from Waco who blossomed at TCU and reached the pinnacle of NFL individual success, is calling it quits.
Tomlinson, who was the NFL Most Valuable Player in 2006 with the San Diego Chargers and is the fifth-leading rusher in league history, re-signed with the team today and then announced his retirement after an 11-year NFL career.
Tomlinson, about to turn 33, said at a news conference in San Diego that it's time to move on and enjoy his family. He said he's still physically capable of playing but that the game takes a mental toll.
Tomlinson was drafted by San Diego in 2001 after rushing for more than 2,000 yards in his senior season with the Horned Frogs and became one of the biggest stars in Chargers history, helping revive the team after the devastating Ryan Leaf years and turning it into a force in the AFC West. He spent the first nine years of his career in San Diego. He played the last two seasons with the New York Jets.
Tomlinson won the MVP in '06, when he set NFL single-season records with 31 touchdowns, including 28 rushing, and 186 points. He ran for a career-high 1,815 yards that year, giving him the first of two straight league rushing titles.
Tomlinson finishes his career with 13,684 yards and 145 touchdowns.
After starting at running back at Waco University High for only one season, "LT" joined TCU with little fanfare in 1997. At the time, the Horned Frogs had won one conference championship since 1959.
TCU went 1-10 in Tomlinson's freshman season. But then Dennis Franchione was hired, and TCU went 7-5 in 1998, 8-4 in 1999 and 10-2 in 2000, when Tomlinson led the nation with 2,158 rushing yards.
"He had a great run and obviously he's been a great ambassador for TCU and for TCU football," Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson said Sunday. "The way he has handled himself on and off the field has been spectacular. I'm sorry to see his run come to an end. He's meant a lot to college football."
The Chargers made him the fifth overall selection, and after a solid rookie season he embarked on a run the likes of which rarely have been seen in the NFL, racking up yards, touchdowns and accolades with a combination of quickness, vision and speed that made him one of the league's most potent offensive weapons. And all the while, he humbly built a reputation as one of the NFL's good guys.
Perhaps his most memorable moment with the Chargers came on Dec. 10, 2006, when he swept into the end zone late in a game against the Denver Broncos for his third touchdown of the afternoon to break Shaun Alexander's year-old record of 28 touchdowns.
His linemen hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him toward the sideline, with Tomlinson holding the ball high in his right hand and waving his left index finger, while the fans chanted "L.T.! L.T.!" and "MVP! MVP!"
When the Chargers released him in February 2010, quarterback Philip Rivers said: "I had the best view in the house on some of those awesome runs he made."
Tomlinson had said recently that he might continue his career if the right opportunity was available. Some fans hoped the Chargers would bring back Tomlinson as a third-down back, but that appeared impossible as long as general manager A.J. Smith, who released LT following the 2009 season, was in charge.
Tomlinson signed with the Jets, splitting time in the backfield with Shonn Greene. In 2010, he rushed for 914 yards, helping New York reach the AFC Championship Game.