Taken with the No. 5 pick in the 2001 NFL Draft out of Texas Christian University, LaDainian Tomlinson would become the best running running back in San Diego Chargers history, and one of the best to ever play in the league.
During his senior season at TCU, Tomlinson rushed for 2,158 yards and 22 touchdowns, creating a path that would have him be one of the top picks in the upcoming draft.
Coming off a 1-15 2000 season that included its top rusher, running back Terrell Fletcher, rushing for only 384 yards and three touchdowns, San Diego elected to trade its first pick to Atlanta for a surplus of picks and a player. Atlanta took Michael Vick and San Diego took Tomlinson.
San Diego made a four-win jump from the previous season, going 5-11 with Tomlinson rushing for 1,236 yards and 10 touchdowns. It was the start to what would be an illustrious career for Tomlinson.
Tomlinson and the Chargers made their first playoff appearance after a successful 12-4 2004 campaign, in which Tomlinson rushed for 1,335 yards along with 17 touchdowns. But Tomlinson was held in check by the 11-6 New York Jets, carrying the ball 26 times for only 80 yards and no touchdowns in a San Diego loss.
In the 2006 NFL season, Tomlinson would have one of the best seasons a running back will ever have, rushing for 1,815 yards and 28 touchdowns. In total, Tomlinson had 2,323 scrimmage yards and 31 touchdowns. During that special season, Tomlinson scored 19 touchdowns in the span of six games, with three four-touchdown games.
San Diego was considered to be Super Bowl favorites, boasting a great offense led by Tomlinson and a stacked defense coached by Wade Phillips and led by Shawne Merriman. But San Diego lost to the New England Patriots 24-21 in the AFC Conference Divisional round. Tomlinson rushed 23 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns, but only got nine carries in the second half.
Despite the crushing end to the season, Tomlinson won the NFL Most Valuable Player award for his dominant 2006 season.
Tomlinson would have another great season in 2007, rushing for 1,415 yards and 15 touchdowns, earning another rushing title and surpassing Walter Payton on the all-time rushing list.
But Tomlinson would be unable to play in the AFC Conference Championship game against the Patriots after suffering an MCL sprain in the team’s divisional round win over the Indianapolis Colts. It would be the closest Tomlinson would ever get to playing in a Super Bowl.
LaDainian Tomlinson would only spend two more seasons with the Chargers, rushing for 1,840 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Tomlinson signed with the New York Jets in 2010, but after two seasons announced his retirement from the NFL, signing a ceremonial contract with the Chargers to do it.
At the time of his retirement, Tomlinson was high on many rushing leaderboards, including fifth in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns, and third in total touchdowns. Tomlinson was a five-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro.
His career was cemented in history after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2017.
While LaDainian Tomlinson was unable to attain a Super Bowl, he is arguably one of the best running backs to ever play football.