Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/18/12
LaDainian Tomlinson has decided to call it a Hall-of-Fame career, as he announced he will sign with the San Diego Chargers and retire where it all started for the 11-year veteran.

Tomlinson will retire in 5th place on the all-time rushing yards list behind only Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin. What is even more impressive is that LT is in extremely rarified air when it comes to scoring touchdowns. In NFL history, only Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith have made it to pay-dirt more than LaDainian Tomlinson.


NFL All-Time Rushing Leaders
  1. Emmitt Smith -- 18,355
  2. Walter Payton -- 16,726
  3. Barry Sanders -- 15,269
  4. Curtis Martin -- 14,101
  5. LaDainian Tomlinson -- 13,684
NFL All-Time Touchdown Leaders
  1. Jerry Rice -- 208
  2. Emmitt Smith -- 175
  3. LaDainian Tomlinson -- 162
  4. Terrell Owens -- 156
  5. Randy Moss -- 154

Norv Turner, who coached Tomlinson for much of his NFL career, said: “There have been very few players in the NFL who have meant as much to their team as LT did during his career here. In particular, his MVP season in 2006. It would be hard to find a back who's led the league in rushing and caught over 100 balls in separate seasons. It speaks volumes to his abilities and what he was capable of doing."

Now that we have emerged into an era of two-back systems, it may be a long time before we see another running back with the prolific type of career LaDainian Tomlinson had. Only Maurice Jones Drew and Adrian Peterson appear to be real threats to move high up the leader board, and they are each only into the 6,000 yard area. Not to mention they both remain only 4 years away from the dreaded 30-year-old plateau for running backs.

Numbers are great, but what may even be more telling of the type of career Tomlinson had is in the way his opponents remember him. Ray Lewis, who may go down as the most feared defensive player of his era, said of Tomlinson, “LT changed the way the running back is looked at. You think about him being a complete three-down back and using that as a receiver as well. You hadn't seen that many backs have that type of versatility. He was one of those backs that you had to get in position on all downs on the ball. I think that's the way he really changed the game."

With so much attention now being paid to ensure teams do not overload their starting running back, the five names at the top of the rushing leader board may be the five names which stay there for a long time, and LT is one of those players on the Mount Rushmore of NFL running backs.

In his career, LaDainian Tomlinson made five Pro Bowl, won two rushing titles and took home the NFL MVP in 2006. Tomlinson started his NFL career with eight straight 1,000+ yard seasons – a feat neither Walter Payton nor Emmitt Smith were able to achieve. 

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