LaDainian Tomlinson’s smile was wide and his eyes were red. The former TCU star didn’t even try to hide the fact that he had cried like a baby upon hearing of his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“Of course I cried. Let’s just get that out of the way right now,” Tomlinson said during a news conference at NFL Honors on Saturday night.
Tomlinson proved the easiest choice among the seven-member Class of 2017. Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, safety Kenny Easley, defensive end Jason Taylor, kicker Morten Andersen, quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Terrell Davis also have their spots reserved in Canton, bringing the number of Hall of Famers to 310.
Terrell Owens, in his second year of eligibility, again was eliminated in the reduction vote from 15 to 10, along with Isaac Bruce, Don Coryell, Alan Faneca and Joe Jacoby. John Lynch, Brian Dawkins, Tony Boselli, Ty Law and Kevin Mawae were eliminated in the cut to five.
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Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, a contributors candidate along with Jones, became the first finalist voted down since seniors candidate Dick Stanfel in 2012. Stanfel finally earned induction last year.
Tagliabue also failed to obtain the required 80 percent needed for induction in 2007.
I got real nervous at that point. Needless to say, it was a false alarm, and I finally got the knock at the door around 5:40.
LaDainian Tomlinson, on getting a 5 p.m. cellphone call. A phone call meant a candidate didn’t get in.
The discussion on Tomlinson was the shortest of the 18 candidates, with the 48 selectors needing only 5 minutes, 43 seconds. Tomlinson’s résumé spoke for itself.
Tomlinson, who played nine seasons with the Chargers and two with the Jets, ranks fifth in NFL history in rushing yards with 13,684, second in rushing touchdowns with 145, third in total touchdowns with 162 and fifth in yards from scrimmage with 18,456.
With the Chargers moving to Los Angeles, Tomlinson could be the last San Diego Charger to earn a spot in Canton with his induction scheduled for Aug. 5.
“Obviously I had the pleasure of knowing LT and seeing him grow into one of the greatest running backs ever to the play the game,” Chargers owner Dean Spanos said in a statement. “It was never a doubt in my mind that he would be a first-ballot Hall of Famer. This is the pinnacle for every NFL career.”
Tomlinson, though, admitted to nerves Saturday as he watched NFL Network snippets of the 8-hour, 50-minute selection committee meeting in his hotel room. The candidates who weren’t elected were informed by telephone, so when Tomlinson’s cellphone rang around 5 p.m. he thought the worst.
Throughout your career, you’re always striving to be greater. ... I can’t be any greater now. My football journey is over.
“I got real nervous at that point,” he said. “Needless to say, it was a false alarm, and I finally got the knock at the door around 5:40.”
Tomlinson opened the door to find Hall of Fame President David Baker waiting with good news. The screams from friends and family filled the hotel room, informing everyone of Tomlinson’s new place in history.
The party continued Saturday night at the Engine Room.
“Throughout your career, you’re always striving to be greater,” Tomlinson said. “You’re always striving to get more yards. You want more. I can’t be any greater now. My football journey is over. I am a Hall of Famer and forever that title behind my name will say, ‘Here lies a Hall of Famer.’ It will say it on my tombstone. That’s pretty darn special.”
The Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2017
LaDainian Tomlinson, running back (San Diego Chargers, 2001-09; New York Jets, 2010-11)
Morten Andersen, kicker (New Orleans Saints, 1982-1994; Atlanta Falcons, 1995-2000, 2006-07; New York Giants, 2001; Kansas City Chiefs, 2002-03; Minnesota Vikings, 2004)
Jason Taylor, defensive end (Miami Dolphins, 1997-2007, 2009, 2011; Washington Redskins, 2008; New York Jets, 2010)
Kurt Warner, quarterback (St. Louis Rams, 1998-2003; New York Giants, 2004; Arizona Cardinals, 2005-09)
Terrell Davis, running back (Denver Broncos, 1995-2001)
Jerry Jones, owner, president, general manager (Dallas Cowboys 1989-present)
Kenny Easley, free safety (Seattle Seahawks, 1981-1987)