Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/21/12
This week, after a quick visit to 1943 to check out the merged Steelers/Eagles team (the Steagles), it seemed it would be a waste of plutonium fuel to make such a short jump to put together a profile of LaDainian Tomlinson. Instead, I left the “Wayback Machine” in the garage, removed the Flucks Capacitor (invented by Alphonse Flucks, born Dec. 12, 1923; died July 7, 1817) and walked back into the past to celebrate the career of a running back that will be a certain inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility (and I don’t need a time machine to know that).

June 23, 1979–LaDainian Tomlinson, running back for the San Diego Chargers and New York Jets, was born in Rosebud Texas.
Each generation gets to enjoy a handful of athletes in all sports who compel fans to transcend team loyalties and admire their overall excellence and accomplishments. One of those athletes was born this week in a small town northwest of Houston and retired this past Monday at a signing ceremony that returned him to the team where he had his greatest seasons.

LaDainian Tomlinson finished his career fifth on the all-time rushing yards list, holds single-season records for most rushing touchdowns (28) and combined rushing/receiving touchdowns (31) and is No. 2 and No. 3 on the career leader lists in those categories. He’s also fifth all-time on the all-time yards from scrimmage leaders. There are many more accomplishments that could be listed here but that wouldn’t leave much room to take a look at Tomlinson’s background.

Tomlinson was born into a troubled family. His father was 15-years older than his mother, who was the pastor of a church in Waco. He left the family when Tomlinson was seven. As he and his two siblings grew up, Tomlinson did whatever he could to help his family through their tough times while he learned about hard work and perseverance.
Tomlinson began to play football in a Pop Warner league when he was nine and played football along with basketball and baseball at University High School in Waco. He played linebacker as a sophomore and blocking fullback in his junior year before his running talent emerged when became the first-string running back in his senior season. He rushed for 2,554-yards and 39 touchdowns but was lightly recruited because that was the only season he had spent as a featured back. He reviewed offers from smaller, area schools and signed with TCU, starting in 1997.

Tomlinson split time at running back with Basil Mitchell in his freshman and sophomore seasons. The Horned Frogs finished 1-10 in the 1997 season which got head coach Pat Sullivan replaced by Dennis Franchione. In 1998 TCU rode an explosive two-back offense and an improved defense to a 7-5 record and a berth in the Sun Bowl where they upset heavily favored USC 28-19.

In his junior year, Tomlinson took over the running back position full time, rushing for a TCU record 1,974-yards and 20 touchdowns.* That November he set a college football rushing record that still stands when he ran for 406-yards and six touchdowns against UTEP. TCU played in a second consecutive bowl game at the end of that season, defeating favored East Carolina 28-14 in the Mobile Alabama Bowl.

In his senior season Tomlinson raised the bar again, rushing for 2,158-yards and 22 touchdowns in a 10-1 season for TCU. Tomlinson finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting that year behind winner Chris Weinke of Florida State, Josh Heupel of Oklahoma and Drew Brees of Purdue.
  In the 2000 season the San Diego Chargers finished 1-15 and held the first overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft. They were originally targeting Mike Vick as their pick but couldn’t make progress in initial contract negotiations. With the possibility of not being able to reach a contract agreement, they began looking at other options. The one they took was a deal with Atlanta that gave the Falcons the rights to Vick plus wide receiver Tim Dwight for their first round pick (fifth overall), a third round pick and a second round pick in 2002. When Tomlinson fell to them at No. 5 the Chargers snapped him up.
In Tomlinson’s nine seasons with the Chargers he rushed for over 1,000-yards eight consecutive times (his rookie season of 2001 to 2008), led the NFL in rushing twice, led in total yards from scrimmage once (in 2003), won the NFL Most Valuable Player Award for 2006 (the year he broke the single-season touchdown records), was a three-time First-Team All-Pro and was named to the Pro Bowl five times.

It took the Chargers some time to match the All-Pro play that Tomlinson provided but when they did they became an offensive machine, first behind Drew Brees at quarterback, then Philip Rivers. The Chargers broke through for a 12-4 record and AFC West title in 2004. They missed the playoffs with a 9-7 record in 2005 then put together a string of four consecutive playoff appearances. Unfortunately, the closest Tomlinson came to a Super Bowl appearance was in 2006 when the Chargers lost 21-12 in the Conference Championship Game against the Patriots and in 2010 when the Jets made it to the Conference Championship Game before losing to the Steelers 24-19.

On Monday June 18th, after two seasons with the Jets, LaDainian Tomlinson came home to San Diego to sign a one-day contract and retire a member of the Chargers. Owner Dean Spanos stood up after both had signed the contract and announced, “It's with a great deal of pleasure that I introduce the newest Charger, LaDainian Tomlinson, a Charger now and forever.”  Spanos also said at the ceremony that no other Chargers player will wear Tomlinson’s No. 21. During the news conference Tomlinson stated that, “It wasn't because I didn't want to play anymore; that wasn't the reason. It was simply time to move on.”

LaDainion Tomlinson hasn’t announced what his plans are in his post-football life but one thing is certain. When the time comes he’ll be wearing a yellow sports coat on the dais as he’s inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

* According to College Football Reference

Events This Week:
June 19, 1943 – The Philadelphia Eagles and Pittsburgh Steelers merge teams for the 1943 season.
With the United States’ involvement in World War II and a manpower shortage faced by all professional sports due to the tough, grueling fighting that was still to come in the effort to defeat Germany, Italy and Japan the NFL was left with players who were otherwise unfit to serve in the armed forces. Over 600 NFL players had either been drafted or enlisted after the attack on Pearl Harbor brought fully into the U.S. into the conflict.

In the spring of 1943 the Cleveland Rams had suspended team operations; the Steelers had only six players under contract and the Eagles only 16. Most of the players selected in that year’s draft ended up in the armed forces so there was no solution to the problem from that area. To bring the league to eight teams so there could be a 1943 season, Steelers’ owner Art Rooney floated the idea of the Eagles and Steelers combining operations for one season. Alexis Thompson, the Eagles owner, reluctantly agreed but with a lot of stipulations that gave him the advantage with the arrangements made.

Thompson wanted the team called the Eagles and based in Philadelphia. Rooney was able to land two home games to Philadelphia’s four. The other concession Rooney made was that the team would wear Eagles’ green and white. The other league owners passed the merger agreement by a 5-4 vote. Some felt that the combined team would have an unfair competitive advantage. The stipulation put on the agreement by the league was that the team merger would be dissolved immediately after the final game of the season.

From the beginning of training camp Steelers’ head coach Walt Kiesling and Eagles’ head coach Earle “Greasy” Neale despised each other. As the merged teams were assembled neither coach was willing to take a demotion and serve under the other. Kiesling was late arriving to the team’s training camp and found that Neale was in the process of installing the T-formation offense and he ended up running the offense while Kiesling took control of the defense.

Not long into camp and the season the NFL name for the combined team, the Phil-Pitt Combine, found itself easily converted to Steagles, except by fans and writers in Philadelphia. They won their first two games of the 1943 season, 17-0 over the Brooklyn Dodgers and 26-14 over the New York Giants. They weren’t able to sustain that success though. The players were working 40 hours a week in defense plants, mandated by the two owners, plus practicing three hours a day and trying to deal with coaches who were feuding so severely that they both walked off the field during a Friday practice, but returned to coach the game on Sunday. The team finished the 1943 season 5-4-1. It was the first winning season ever for an Eagles team and only the second for the Steelers.

The following season, to balance out an 11 team league, the Steelers merged with the Chicago Cardinals and became one of the worst assemblages of players in NFL history. The story of the Card-Pitts, or Car-Pits can be found here (Dropping Back In NFL History: The Real Worst Team of All Time).

Notable Birthdays This Week:
June 18, 1963–Bruce Smith; Defensive End (Bills/Redskins) 1985–2003; 8-time First-Team All-Pro;
                                                11-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009

June 19, 1924–Leo Nomellini; Tackle/Defensive Tackle (49ers) 1950–1963; 6-time First-Team All-Pro;
                                                   10-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1969

June 20, 1935–Len Dawson; Quarterback (Steelers/Browns/Chiefs) 1957–1975; 2-time First-Team All-Pro;
                                                 7-time Pro Bowler; Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1987

June 21, 1930–Mike McCormack; Right Tackle (New York Yanks/Browns) 1951–1962; 6-time Pro Bowler
                                                         Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984

June 21, 1947–Duane Thomas; Running Back (Cowboys/Redskins) 1970–1974
An outstanding back when he was ready to play, which wasn’t enough for anyone after two seasons with the Cowboys and two with the Redskins. He’s best known for the quote he gave as the Cowboys prepared to play the Dolphins in Super Bowl VI. He was asked if the Super Bowl was the ultimate game. He replied, “If it’s the ultimate game, how come they’re playing it again next year?”

The Rest of This Week’s Birthdays:
June 18th
1910–Charley Malone; End (Redskins) 1934–1942; 1-time First-Team All-Pro
1937–Wray Carlton; Halfback/Fullback (Bills) 1960–1967; 2-time Pro Bowler
1958–Doug Marsh; Tight End (Cardinals) 1980–1986              
1963–Joe Walter; Tackle (Bengals) 1985–1997
1980–Visanthe Shiancoe; Tight End (Giants/Vikings) 2003–2011
1980–Antonio Gates; Tight End (Chargers) 2003–2011; 3-time First-Team All-Pro; 8-time Pro Bowler
1980–Anthony Adams; Defensive Tackle (49ers/Bears) 2003–2011
1982–Michael Jenkins; Wide Receiver (Falcons/Vikings) 2004–2011
1983–Dimitri Patterson; Defensive Back (Redskins/Chiefs/Eagles/Browns) 2005–2011
1989–Chris Harris; Cornerback (Broncos) 2011–2011

June 19th
1908–Roger Grove; Halfback/Quarterback (Packers) 1931–1935
1910–Bree Cuppoletti; Guard (Cardinals/Eagles) 1934–1939
1919–Steve Bagarus; Halfback/Defensive Back (Redskins/Rams) 1945–1948; 1-time First-Team All-Pro
1933–Mal Hammack; Fullback (Cardinals) 1955–1966
1937–Alan Miller; Fullback (Patriots/Raiders) 1960–1965; 1-time Pro Bowler
1938–Charlie Cowan; Tackle (Rams) 1961––1975; 3-time Pro Bowler
1942–Willie Frazier; Tight End (Oilers/Chargers/Chiefs) 1964–1975; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 3-time Pro Bowler
1950–Dave Reavis; Left Tackle (Steelers/Buccaneers) 1974–1983
1955–Mike Renfro; Wide Receiver (Oilers/Cowboys) 1978–1987
1970–Chris Gray; Guard/Center (Dolphins/Bears/Seahawks) 1993–2007
1976–Patrick Surtain; Cornerback (Dolphins/Chiefs)                1998–2008; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 3-time Pro Bowler
1977–Peter Warrick; Wide Receiver (Bengals/Seahawks) 2000–2005
1979–Quentin Jammer; Cornerback (Chargers) 2002–2011
1979–Stephen Cooper; Linebacker               (Chargers) 2003–2011
1985–Lance Ball; Running Back (Colts/Broncos) 2008–2011
1987–Rashard Mendenhall; Running Back (Steelers)               2008–2011
1987–Keenan Clayton; Linebacker                (Eagles) 2010–2011
1987–Alex Carrington; Defensive End (Bills) 2010–2011

June 20th
1897–Charlie Mathys; Back (Hammond Pros/Packers) 1921–1926
1899–Milt Romney; Wingback/Quarterback (Racine Legion/Bears) 1923–1928
1900–Tony Plansky; Back (Giants/Boston Braves) 1928–1932; 1-time First-Team All-Pro
1921–Joe Sulaitis; Back/Defensive End (Giants/Boston Yanks) 1943–1953
1949–Dave Elmendorf; Safety (Rams) 1971–1979
1960–Keith Uecker; Tackle/Guard (Broncos/Packers)               1982–1991
1978–LaVar Arrington; Linebacker (Redskins/Giants) 2000–2006; 3-time Pro Bowler
1983–Darren Sproles; Running Back/Kick & Punt Returner (Chargers/Saints) 2005–2011
1985–Josh Morgan; Wide Receiver (49ers) 2008–2011
1985–Matt Flynn; Quarterback (Packers) 2008–2011
1987–Josh Mauga; Linebacker (Jets) 2010–2011
1988–Darrin Walls; Cornerback (Falcons) 2011–2011
1989–Terrelle Pryor; Quarterback (Raiders) 2011–2011

June 21st
1895–Bull Lowe; End (Canton Bulldogs/Cleveland Indians/Providence Steam Roller/Frankford Yellow Jackets)
                            1920–1927; 1-time First-Team All-Pro
1901–Red Dunn; Back (Milwaukee Badgers/Cardinals/Packers) 1924–1931
1929–Bob Gain; Defensive Tackle (Browns) 1952–1964; 5-time Pro Bowler
1942–Dan Henning; Quarterback (Chargers) 1966–1966
                                      Head Coach (Falcons 1983-1986; Chargers 1989-1991)
1955–Bill Bryan; Center (Broncos) 1977–1988
1956–Bruce E. Davis; Tackle (Raiders/Oilers) 1979–1989
1963–Mike Sherrard; Wide Receiver (Cowboys/49ers/Giants/Broncos) 1986–1996
1966–David W. Williams; Tackle (Oilers/Jets) 1989–1997
1975–Brian Simmons; Linebacker (Bengals/Saints) 1998–2007
1977–Al Wilson; Linebacker (Broncos) 1999–2006; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 5-time Pro Bowler
1987–Letroy Guion; Defensive Tackle (Vikings) 2008–2011

June 22nd
1919–Harvey Johnson; Tackle/Placekicker (New York Yanks) 1946–1951
                                            Head Coach (Bills) 1968 & 1971
1928–Skeet Quinlan; Halfback (Rams) 1952–1956; 1-time Pro Bowler
1947–Bobby Douglass; Quarterback (Bears/Chargers/Saints/Packers) 1969–1978
1948–Curtis Johnson; Cornerback (Dolphins) 1970–1978
1949–Mike Wagner; Safety (Steelers) 1971–1980; 2-time Pro Bowler
1958–Mike McDonald; Linebacker (Rams/Lions) 1983–1992
1958–Rick Dennison; Linebacker (Broncos)                1982–1990
1967–Eric Green; Tight End (Steelers/Ravens/Jets) 1990–1999; 2-time Pro Bowler
1974–Bryan Robinson; Defensive Tackle (Rams/Bears/Dolphins/Bengals/Cardinals) 1997–2010
1978–Champ Bailey; Cornerback (Redskins/Broncos) 1999–2011; 3-time First-Team All-Pro; 11-time Pro Bowler
1987–Corey Wootton; Defensive End (Bears) 2010–2011
1987–Delone Carter; Running Back (Colts) 2011–2011

June 23rd
1913–Ed Jankowski; Fullback (Packers) 1937–1941; 1-time Pro Bowler
1930–Bob Toneff; Defensive Tackle (49ers/Redskins) 1952–1964; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 4-time Pro Bowler
1956–Tony Hill; Wide Receiver (Cowboys) 1977–1986; 3-time Pro Bowler
1967–Derrick Walker; Tight End (Chargers/Chiefs/Raiders) 1990–1999             
1970–Mike Bartrum; Tight End/Center (Chiefs/Packers/Patriots/Eagles)              1993–2006; 1-time Pro Bowler
1972–Larry Whigham; Defensive Back (Patriots/Bears) 1994–2002; 2-time Pro Bowler
1972–Cory Schlesinger; Fullback (Lions) 1995–2006              
1976–Brandon Stokley; Wide Receiver (Colts/Broncos/Seahawks/Giants) 1999–2011
1977–Shaun O'Hara; Guard/Center               (Browns/Giants)   2000–2010; 3-time Pro Bowler
1978–Matt Light; Left Tackle (Patriots) 2001–2011; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 3-time Pro Bowler
1981–O.J. Atogwe; Safety                (Rams) 2005–2011
1982–Josh Scobee; Placekicker (Jaguars) 2004–2011
1984–Adam Hayward; Linebacker (Buccaneers) 2007–2011
1985–Marcel Reece; Tight End (Raiders) 2009–2011
1985–Fili Moala; Defensive Tackle (Colts) 2009–2011

June 24th
1895–Pete Stinchcomb; Back (Bears/Columbus Tigers/Louisville Colonals) 1921–1926; 2-time First-Team All-Pro
                                             Head Coach (Columbus Tigers) 1923
1915–Bill Radovich; Guard (Lions/Los Angeles Dons) 1938–1947; 2-time First-Team All-Pro; 1-time Pro Bowler
1935–Ron Kramer; Tight End (Packers/Lions) 1957–1967; 1-time First-Team All-Pro; 1-time Pro Bowler
1944–Doug Van Horn; Guard/Tackle (Lions/Giants) 1966–1979
1952–Dave Lapham; Guard (Bengals) 1974–1983
1959–Lin Dawson; Tight End (Patriots) 1981–1990
1963–Duval Love; Guard (Rams/Steelers/Cardinals) 1985–1996; 1-time Pro Bowler
1972–Mitch Berger; Punter (Eagles/Vikings/Rams/Saints/Cardinals/Steelers/Broncos) 1994–2009;
                                  2-time Pro Bowler
1974–Adam Treu; Center (Raiders)                1997–2006
1977–Antoine Winfield; Cornerback (Bills/Vikings) 1999–2011; 3-time Pro Bowler
1977–Shaun Ellis; Defensive End (Jets/Patriots) 2000–2011; 2-time Pro Bowler
1981–Harvey Dahl; Guard/Tackle (49ers/Falcons/Rams) 2006–2011
1982–Andrew Economos; Center (Buccaneers) 2006–2011
1985–Curtis Painter; Quarterback (Colts) 2009–2011              
1987–Lamarr Houston; Defensive Tackle (Raiders) 2010–2011  

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