LaDainian Tomlinson Retirement: Legendary Running Back Walks Away at Right Time

Ian HanfordFeatured ColumnistJune 17, 2012

LaDainian Tomlinson's illustrious career has come to a close. The future Hall of Fame running back will walk away from the NFL as a member of the San Diego Chargers, according to

The Chargers said Sunday that Tomlinson, who was the NFL MVP in 2006 with San Diego and is the fifth-leading rusher in league history, will re-sign with the team on Monday and then announce his retirement.

The five-time Pro Bowler is leaving the NFL at the right time. He probably could have done without his two-year stint with the New York Jets as well, but he can have a pass for that one. 

Lately, it seems like an inordinate amount of athletes are unnecessarily hanging on to their careers for dear life. Brett Favre is the poster boy for this movement, but several others have followed suit.

Tomlinson deserves credit for bucking this bizarre trend. He retains his dignity, his health and his status as a model NFL player.

Sure, he could have returned for another year; I'm sure at least one desperate NFL team would have signed Tomlinson to an incentive-laden, one-year deal just to plug a hole in its depth chart.

But he didn't need to sink to that level. 

LT accomplished all there is to accomplish in today's football world. Why would the NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher stoop to third-down-back status?

He shouldn't, and I am glad he didn't.

Watching legendary athletes limp their way through the twilight of their careers is difficult. Even if you aren't a fan of that specific player, you feel for him through every inch of his all-too-obvious decline.

Tomlinson was smart to avoid all that. He is one of the most tenacious competitors to ever step foot on the gridiron of professional football. He carried himself with pride, integrity and an aura of quiet but intense leadership.

Instead of tainting that image with a haphazard last gasp, the Chargers legend is beginning the next chapter of his life. 

Personally, I will always remember Tomlinson for his electric open-field moves, darkened visor and absurd statistical seasons as the MVP of my fantasy football team.

He was truly a once-in-a-generation talent, and his personality matched the gold standard set by his play between the lines. 

The Texas Christian product's legacy is littered throughout the NFL's record books and leaderboards. He has unquestionable Hall of Fame credentials and is arguably one of the top five greatest ball-carriers in NFL history.

Rather than log a few extra miles on his vulnerable knees or leave himself vulnerable to a post-career-shattering concussion, LT did what so many athletes have a hard time doing—he walked away from the game he loved the most. 

He was showered with applause for 11 NFL seasons.

Let's give him one more round for making the right, and respectable, decision as the curtains close on his illustrious career.