NFL: Why LaDainian Tomlinson Is a Hall of Famer

Brad BerryCorrespondent IJune 30, 2012

SAN DIEGO, CA - JUNE 18:  LaDainian Tomlinson holds a jersey with San Diego Chargers Dean Spanos, during his announcement of his retirement from professional football, after signing a one-day contract with the San Diego Chargers and being immediately released by the club, at Qualcomm Stadium on June 18, 2012 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Kent C. Horner/Getty Images)
Kent Horner/Getty Images

LaDainian Tomlinson has recently decided to retire as a San Diego Charger. Though he did not play the last few years at the same high level that he enjoyed earlier in his career, it should not detract from the fact that he was the greatest running back of the past decade.

LT burst onto the NFL scene as the fifth overall pick by the San Diego Chargers and was projected by some experts to be a bust on the epic scale of Ki-Jana Carter or Rashaan Salaam. But like all great Hall of Famers, Tomlinson proved his doubters wrong...dead wrong.

During his tenure in San Diego, Tomlinson became the fifth-leading rusher in NFL history, won two NFL rushing titles, earned MVP honors, was a five-time Pro-Bowler and a six-time All-Pro. In addition, LT holds the NFL record for touchdowns in a single season with 31.

Given the NFL's progression toward a pass-only league, that record is going to be even more spectacular in hindsight.

These accomplishments warrant first-ballot Hall of Fame status for Tomlinson, one of the last every-down running backs, especially when considering that most of his productivity came in a time span of only six to seven seasons.

If there is one memory that will mar LT's legacy in the eyes of many voters, it is the 2007 AFC Championship game when he sat on the bench with his helmet on after being pulled out of the game due to injury. Some believe that this act was one of selfishness and should be condemned. But that is the wrong way to look at that incident.

The way that I remember it was that LT was absolutely crushed because he realized that his best years were behind him and he could not help his team. He knew it was over and was in no mood to be in the limelight.

In the end, nobody will remember that moment or his time with the New York Jets. We will always remember Tomlinson as the great player he was. 

He was a winner. He is the reason the Chargers were able to recover so quickly from the Ryan Leaf fiasco. It wasn't his fault that they lost to the Patriots in 2006.

Football is the ultimate team sport and to suggest that it was because of LT that the Chargers did not win a Super Bowl is incredibly ignorant. The Hall of Fame is not meant for team accomplishments. It is meant to reward individual achievement.