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Tuesday, February 23, 2010

21 best memories of 21


As we celebrate LaDainian Tomlinson’s nine breathtaking seasons in San Diego, takes a look back at the 21 most memorable moments of the future Hall of Famer’s time in lightning bolts.

21. Becoming a Bolt – April 21, 2001 – The Chargers owned the first pick in the draft but swung a trade with the Atlanta Falcons, who wanted to draft quarterback Michael Vick. San Diego picked up Tim Dwight and two additional picks (3rd in 2001, 2nd in 2002) along with the fifth overall selection in 2001, the one they used to grab Tomlinson.

20. What a Start – September 9, 2001 – LaDainian Tomlinson’s NFL debut gave Chargers fans a small glimpse of what they could expect over the next nine seasons. In his first professional game, LT rushed for 113 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Chargers to a 30-3 victory over the Redskins.

19. Back to Back – September 30 - October 7, 2001 – LT rushed for 100-yards in back-to-back weeks 16 times in his career. The first time he accomplished the feat came in Weeks 3 & 4 of his rookie year. The 107 and 102-yard performances came against Cincinnati and Cleveland, two of the four teams that passed on an opportunity to select Tomlinson in the 2001 NFL Draft.

18. Catching on – December 7-14, 2003 – In a year in which he became the first player to catch 100 passes and rush for 1,000 yards in the same season, LT also became the first Chargers running back to ever record 100 receiving yards in consecutive games. He caught nine passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns in a win at Detroit and followed that performance with an 11-catch, 144-yard outing the next week against Green Bay.

17. Raider Hater – October 20, 2002 – In his first nine seasons, Tomlinson rushed for more yards against the Raiders than any other team (2,017). One of his most memorable performances against Oakland came in 2002 when he rushed for 153 yards and scored a 19-yard, game-winning touchdown in overtime in front of the Black Hole.

16. Another Big Day - December 1, 2002 – LT’s second-highest rushing performance of his career came in a 30-27 win over the Broncos in 2002. He carried 37 times for 220 yards and three touchdowns and also caught 11 passes for 51 yards to help lead the Chargers to victory.

15. Best in Bolts – October 3, 2004 – In just his 52nd career game, Tomlinson rushed for 147 yards against the Tennessee Titans to pass Paul Lowe and become San Diego’s all-time leading rusher.

14. Rushing Title II – December 30, 2007 – In limited action due to the fact that San Diego’s playoff seed was already decided, Tomlinson rushed for 56 yards in a win over the Raiders to hold off Adrian Peterson and give LT his second-consecutive NFL rushing title (1,474 yards).

13. Putting in Overtime – November 15, 2009 – LT scored a 16-yard touchdown in overtime to give the Chargers a 23-17 win over the Titans in Nashville. In the process, Tomlinson became the only player in NFL history to record three overtime touchdowns in a career.

12. Air it Out – September 9, 2007 – Tomlinson threw seven touchdown passes as a Charger, and his last was perhaps the most significant of them all. Trailing Chicago in the fourth quarter of the 2007 regular-season opener, LT hit Antonio Gates for a 17-yard touchdown that proved to be the game winner.

11. Four! – November, 2006 – During his run at the NFL’s single-season touchdown record, Tomlinson recorded back-to-back four-touchdown games in two of the biggest comebacks in team history. His four rushing touchdowns in Cincinnati helped the Chargers overcome a 21-point deficit in the second half, and a week later he scored four times to help San Diego win in Denver after the Bolts trailed 24-7 in the third quarter.

10. Patriot Games - September 29, 2002 – LT’s first 200-yard game of his career came in one of the biggest games in the early part of his career. Tomlinson rushed for 217 yards and two touchdowns – runs of 37 and 58 yards – as the Chargers downed the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium.

9. Way to finish – December 28, 2003 – In the Chargers’ regular-season finale, Tomlinson rushed for a franchise-record 243 yards and scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime to begin what is now a 13-game winning streak over Oakland. Also that day, LT caught his 100th pass of the season, making him the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 receptions in the same season.

8. One Moore Record – October 16, 2005 – Tomlinson tied former Baltimore Colts running back Lenny Moore’s NFL record by scoring a touchdown in 18 consecutive games during a win at Oakland. LT ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown pass and threw a scoring strike to Justin Peelle, and in the process became just the fifth player since 1966 to accomplish the trifecta in a single game.

7. Moving on up – December 14, 2008 – In the 2008 regular-season finale, Tomlinson scored three touchdowns to help the Chargers cap an improbable late-season run that gave them their third-consecutive AFC West title. His first rushing touchdown of the night was his 124th of his career, pushing him past Marcus Allen and into second place on the NFL’s all-time list.

6. What a run – December 17, 2006 - The longest touchdown of LT’s career, an 85-yard sprint against the Kansas City Chiefs on NBC’s Sunday Night Football, allowed him break Paul Hornung’s record for points scored in a season. Tomlinson finished the year with 186 points to top Hornung’s 37-year-old mark of 176 set in 1960.

5. Passing a Legend - December 6, 2009 – It was a simple 11-yard gain that carried significance far beyond the first down marker. On a fourth-quarter run in Cleveland last December, Tomlinson passed Jim Brown to move into eighth place on the NFL’s all-time rushing list. After completing the run, LT jumped to his feet, raced to midfield and pointed to the booth where the greatest player in Browns history was sitting. After the game, Brown congratulated Tomlinson in the Chargers’ locker room and the two embraced.

4. The Clincher – December 19, 2004 - On a snowy afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium, LT rushed for 111 yards and two touchdowns to help the Chargers clinch their first AFC West title since 1994.

3. Quite an Honor - February 2, 2007 - As clutch as he was on the field during his Chargers tenure, Tomlinson’s contributions to San Diego off the field were just as significant. At the conclusion of his 2006 MVP season, LT was awarded the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. The honor, named after Tomlinson’s childhood idol, recognizes on-field excellence as well as charitable contributions. LT’s “Touching Lives Foundation” hosts events throughout the year, including youth football camps in San Diego and Texas, a golf tournament, a fishing trip for kids from The Monarch School for homeless and at-risk teens in San Diego, a Thanksgiving program in which they provide more than 2,100 San Diego families with complete holiday dinners and a Christmas program in which they give away more than 1,500 holiday gifts to the patients at San Diego’s Children’s Hospital and Health Center.

2. Over the top – January 6, 2008 - Including the postseason, LT scored 158 touchdowns in a Chargers uniform. Perhaps his most special one came on a rainy Saturday afternoon in January of 2008. With just under nine minutes remaining in San Diego’s Wild Card playoff game, the Chargers led 10-6. Rather than kick a field goal, Norv Turner opted to try to make it a two-score game on a 4th-and-goal from the one yard line. Tomlinson took the Philip Rivers handoff, jumped above the pile and stretched the ball across the plane of the end zone for a touchdown that made the score 17-6 and essentially sealed San Diego’s first playoff victory in 13 seasons.

1. Witnesses to history – December 10, 2006 - That’s what Chargers fans were on so many occasions throughout LT’s career, and it was fitting that Josh Lewin used the term in his well-known call of LT’s record-breaking 29th touchdown in 2006. As soon as Tomlinson reached the end zone, he was greeted by his teammates, who hoisted the new NFL touchdown king on their shoulders. LT finished the year with an NFL-record 31 scores. Last season, Charger fans voted Tomlinson’s record breaker against the Broncos as the second greatest moment in team history.