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LaDainian Tomlinson soon to become fifth to join Hall’s ‘21’ club

LaDainian Tomlinson had his No. 21 jersey retired by the San Diego Chargers in 2015 and enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month.
LaDainian Tomlinson had his No. 21 jersey retired by the San Diego Chargers in 2015 and enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame next month. Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson will be the fifth member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame to wear No. 21 as their primary number.

Why did LT wear No. 21?

He said he liked former Detroit Lions great Barry Sanders, who wore No. 20, and Dallas Cowboys superstar Emmitt Smith, who wore No. 22, and decided to pick a number in between.

Tomlinson’s No. 21 was retired by the San Diego Chargers in 2015. He is also in the team’s Ring of Honor.

Tomlinson, a five-time Pro Bowler and four-time All-Pro, rushed for 13,684 career yards and 145 touchdowns in 11 NFL seasons, including nine with the Chargers and two with the New York Jets.

Joining Tomlinson in the Class of 2017 will be Jerry Jones, Terrell Davis, Kenny Easley, Kurt Warner, Jason Taylor and Morten Andersen.

Tomlinson was a first-ballot selection for the Hall of Fame, but the announcement didn’t come easy for him.

“Even though you hear people talk about being a shoo-in and you have the numbers, you truly don’t know,” Tomlinson said. “The day of the announcement, the wait was so long that I started to question if I was going to get in.

“The time we were suppose to know, I hadn’t found out yet. I was starting to think maybe I didn’t make it. When the knock on the door game, it was raw emotion and jubilation.”

Here are the other members of the Hall of Fame who wore No. 21 as their primary jersey number:

Dan Fortman, guard, Chicago Bears (1936-1943). The punishing blocker was first- or second-team All-NFL in every season of his career.

Benny Friedman, quarterback Cleveland Bulldogs (1927), Detroit Wolverines (1928), New York Giants (1929-31), Brooklyn Dodgers (1932-34). His 66 career touchdown passes were a league record for more than a decade.

Deion Sanders, cornerback, kick returner, punt returner, Atlanta Falcons (1989-1993), San Francisco 49ers (1994), Dallas Cowboys (1995-99), Washington Redskins (2000), Baltimore Ravens (2004-2005). Ultimate defensive playmaker. He had nine special teams touchdowns, nine on interception returns, three receiving and one on a fumble recovery.

Jim Thorpe, halfback, Canton Bulldogs (1915-17, 1919-20, 1926), Cleveland Indians (1921), Oorang Indians (Marion-Ohio-NFL) (1922-23), Chicago Cardinals (1928). Easily the most athletic player of his time and arguably in sports history.

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