LaDainian Tomlinson retired as a member of the San Diego Chargers on Monday, capping an 11-year career. Over that career, Tomlinson was named to five Pro Bowls, four All-Pro first teams and a league MVP Award (2006). He also won the undying esteem of his childhood hero, Emmitt Smith, who Tomlinson watched as a Cowboys’ fan growing up in Waco.
"I have known LaDainian since he was 13 years old," Smith said, per the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "When you know someone when they are very young, and you watch that person grow into being a man and one of the very best to ever play the game, it is inspirational for me personally. He was a pleasure to watch play football. He did it with pride and passion and he was a true professional from his very first day in the NFL.
“I am extremely honored to know that I have had a positive influence on him. What he accomplished in his career gives me great pride.”
Tomlinson finishes his career as the fifth all-time leading rusher, around 4,500 yards shy of Smith’s mark of 18,355 career yards; with his retirement, and the decline of the one-back approach to the running game in the NFL, many believe that Smith’s mark may never be broken.
"LaDainian has had a tremendous impact on the league, not only as a player but also as a person with great character, and it shows by the respect his peers have for him and how well-known he is to the public," Smith said. "He accomplished many great things as a player, but I don't know of any player recently who has left the game with as much admiration and respect from his peers as LT enjoys. And that might be an athlete's most cherished accomplishment."
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