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LaDainian Tomlinson on career, Ring of Honor, Melvin Gordon

The decorated running back gives advice to the rookie.

In two days, the talented and decorated LaDainian Tomlinson will be inducted into the Chargers' Ring of Honor.

His #21 will be retired by the team, a distinction only three other players have experienced: WR Lance Alworth (#19); QB Dan Fouts (No. 14); and LB Junior Seau (#55).

"This is a moment that doesn't happen often," Tomlinson said Friday. "I don't know if there is a bigger accomplishment than to get your number retired and to go up in the Ring of Honor."

To say it is well-deserved is an understatement.

Tomlinson, one of the most prolific running backs of all time, is synonymous with San Diego. Besides his accomplishments on the field -- 13,684 career rushing yards, 4772 career receiving yards and 162 total touchdowns -- he was a fixture in the community, holding events throughout the year to give back to those in need, including his annual Thanksgiving turkey giveaway.

At 36 years old, Tomlinson is now an NFL Network analyst and a father of two. His wife, Torsha, has a singing career and will perform the National Anthem on Sunday before the game kicks off.

The moment is becoming more real for LT.

"When you are a player, the only thing you think about is trying to win games," said Tomlinson, now 36 years old. "Yes, you recognize that special things like this happen but you can't see yourself in that position because you are still in the thick of things, still entrenched in being a player."

Tomlinson was selected by the Chargers in the first round of the 2001 draft. He addressed fellow first-round running back Melvin Gordon, who has struggled this season to find his place in the Chargers' pass-heavy offense.

"Melvin is doing fine," Tomlinson said. "People have got to understand that this team is totally different from the team I played on.  Remember, my rookie year Doug Flutie was our quarterback, so Doug would run around just as much as I did.  We ran the ball a lot. When you have 17 [Rivers], the offense focuses around him. You have to adjust to that offense. 

"Melvin is going to be fine.  He's going to do terrific things. He’s only going to get better.  He’s still learning.  It is not easy to make that transition from college to the NFL.  Some guys do it quicker than others depending on the situation and certain things that happen. But I guarantee if I was in Melvin’s position, things would probably be the same for me.   I wouldn’t have had the type of season I had my rookie year because of [Rivers].  You have to be patient.”

Tomlinson rushed for 1,236 yards on 339 carries his first year in the NFL (setting a franchise rookie record). He totaled 10 touchdowns as well as 367 receiving yards.

Through nine games, Gordon has rushed for 413 yards on 113 carries.

The future Hall of Famer gave some advice to the rookie rusher about how to go about the process of improving from Year One to Year Two:

"I had a conversation with Melvin about this,” he said.  “It’s making sure you are getting better every single week. The critical time for him is in the offseason, when you go back and self-evaluate.  All players should do that.  When you self-evaluate, you learn what you need to work on. 

"The season is a blur.  There is nothing right now that he can do to try to work on whatever it is people think he might need to work on. That’s for the offseason.  Right now it’s all about trying to help this team win games and playing the role that he is called to play.  I think that is very important ... [Gordon] is the type of guy that you want on your team.  He's the type of worker that you want.  He is going to set an example in the offseason.  And he’s critical of himself.  All great players are critical of themselves.  You think about certain things over and over. He’s that type of guy, and as long as he’s not walking around like, ‘Oh well,' that's what you want.  You want a guy who cares, and I see that out of him."


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