Football

Hall of Fame vote not on LaDainian Tomlinson’s mind ... yet

TCU alum and NFL RB LaDainian Tomlinson talks summer camp, Hall of Fame and College World Series

The future Hall of Famer says he tries not to think about the possibility of being inducted next year, at least not yet. Video by Matthew Martinez.
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The future Hall of Famer says he tries not to think about the possibility of being inducted next year, at least not yet. Video by Matthew Martinez.

Even as LaDainian Tomlinson sliced through NFL defenses on his way to two rushing titles, five Pro Bowls and 145 rushing touchdowns during his 11-year career, his eventual induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, never crossed his mind.

In less than eight months Tomlinson will go on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. Tomlinson retired after the 2012 season, playing his last two seasons with the New York Jets after a long career with the San Diego Chargers. Retired players become eligible for Hall of Fame consideration after being out of the game for five years.

I try not to think about it too much. I’m sure as it gets closer I’ll think about it a little more.

LaDainian Tomlinson on his possible election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame

“No one wakes up in the morning, even as a kid, and dreams of going to the Hall of Fame,” Tomlinson said during Friday’s LaDainian Tomlinson Youth Football Camp at TCU. “I wouldn’t say it’s impossible, but it’s such a hard feat to attain, it’s so rare, that it’s really hard to imagine going to a Hall of Fame and being remembered forever.”

When asked, even the most idealistic young fans will often proclaim goals of simply making the league. Going so far as to call your own Hall of Fame career seems greedy, even to athletes as gifted as Tomlinson.

“I only think about it when guys like you ask me about it,” Tomlinson said. “I try not to think about it too much. I’m sure as it gets closer I’ll think about it a little more. It’s the highest honor an individual player can obtain.”

Others joining Tomlinson in their first year of eligibility are defensive end Jason Taylor, quarterback Donovan McNabb, wide receivers Chad Johnson and Hines Ward and safety Brian Dawkins.

Emmit Smith and Marshall Faulk were the last running backs elected to the Hall of Fame on their first try.

Tomlinson, the native Texan from Rosebud who played high school football in Waco, has impressive credentials (13,684 rushing yards and 169 total TD, including seven TD passes), but voters can get stingy on the first go-round.

Brett Favre was the only first-ballot Hall of Famer in 2016.

At running back, Emmit Smith, whom Tomlinson idolized growing up, and Marshall Faulk are the NFL’s last two first-ballot Hall of Famers, inducted in 2010 and 2011, respectively. Tomlinson’s stats compare favorably to Faulk’s (12,279 yards, 136 total TD), and it would be fitting for Tomlinson to follow in Smith’s footsteps on his first ballot.

“I have a passion for inspiring young people,” Tomlinson said. “I was inspired by Emmit Smith as a young kid. And so I know directly the kind of effect it can have on a young person if you have goals and dreams, but you also are able to meet someone who has reached that goal that you’re trying to attain. At the end of the day, we all need someone to look up to.”

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