When former TCU and San Diego Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson received the call last week letting him know he would be a member of the Class of 2014 inductees into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame, his mind took him back to his high school career at Waco University High School.
Three of those years he spent at fullback, which garnered little attention from college programs.
“There was a time in high school that I didn’t know if I’d make it to college,” Tomlinson said. “I was playing out of position and no one knew about me. I had doubts. I reflected at the time when he gave me the news on what I went through coming out of high school and not many people knowing about me to where I am now. It was emotional.”
On Thursday at the Omni Mandalay Hotel in Las Colinas, all those years of hard work were rewarded as Tomlinson was announced as one of 16 players and coaches introduced as the 2014 College Football Hall of Fame Class. He is the eighth TCU player to enter the Hall of Fame.
Tomlinson and the other members of the class will be officially inducted at the NFF Annual Awards Dinner on Dec. 9 in New York. The inductees are nominated by their schools.
Tomlinson was a first-team All-American after his senior year in 2000 and led the nation in rushing his junior and senior seasons with 1,850 and 2,158 yards as he helped put TCU back on the map of college football relevance.
“We take a great deal of pride in in it. It’s something that we still talk about — some of my teammates that played on those teams,” he said. “We set out to do that. We actually had one of the better classes coming in at the time that TCU ever had. We talked about it. It was something that we really wanted. We wanted to turn around this program and at the end of our four years, when we looked back, we were amazed about where we had come from.”
For an athlete who made running the football look like a thing of ease, his difficult journey to the nation’s best rusher at the time didn’t become any easier as he began at TCU.
He spent time as a backup running back his freshman season, spelling upperclassmen when opportunities arose.
He came out of spring practice at the end of his freshman year as the starting tailback, but was asked by then TCU coach Dennis Franchione to move to fullback to help solidify that struggling unit.
For the sake of the team, he said, he agreed to the move, spending the majority of his sophomore year blocking instead of running the ball.
It wasn’t until after his junior year, the first of his two leading the nation, that he believed he had finally made his mark.
Thursday was just a step toward realizing the depth of that career.
“For me, right now, it hasn’t sunk in,” he said. “I really can’t grasp the feeling of going into the college hall of fame right now, but it’s something that I cherished and that I’m excited about.”