I mentioned to John that I really liked the jersey number series, and the next thing I know, I'm being recruited as a guest writer! But seriously, it's my pleasure to take some of the workload off of John's shoulder until I prove how horribly unprepared and ill-equipped I am as a writer and researcher. My goal is, for however many of these that I do, to keep it short and simple: a list of all the players that wore the number, followed by 1 or 2 of the bigger names with a SHORT bio, and then... the Winner! Without further adieu (dim the lights)... #26
As we get deeper into the 20s, we develop a fuller understanding of how the Chargers have struggled to find and keep quality Running Backs and Defensive Backs over the years. Thirteen players have worn number 26, and all but 2 are RBs or DBs. But only one stands above the rest – without really standing above anyone.
· Bert Coan RB
· Donald Dykes CB
· Floyd Fields S
· Brad Hubbert FB
· Bernard Jackson CB
· Clint Jones RB
· Darryll Lewis CB
· Bo Orlando S
· Bo Roberson WR
· Jim Sears S
· Darryl Usher WR-KR
The Runner Up
Lydell Mitchell, RB
Mitchell enjoyed a great deal of success as the Baltimore Colts (remember them?) running back from ’75-’77, including three straight 1,000-yard seasons and three straight Pro Bowls. Extremely versatile, he even won the AFC Reception title twice.
Mitchell was dealt to San Diego to be the final piece to the puzzle for the league’s most potent offense, and for all intents and purposes he should have been. He racked up over 1300 total yards in ’78. But in ’79, he turned the dreaded 30, and as is the case for many 30 year old RBs (uh oh...), his production dipped. Still, Mitchell managed to achieve what could arguably be considered his career highlight when he scored a touchdown in the ‘79’s playoff loss to Houston. After that, the Chargers turned away from #26 and turned their attention to #46.
Lionel James RB-KR
Few players from the Chargers’ past could be considered more timely than Lionel "Little Train" James even to this day. Every time Darren Sproles water-bugs his way past defenders who look like they’re still learning the 3-cone drill at the Combine, instant comparisons are drawn to this standard-bearer for ungodly Total Yardage numbers.
James was drafted in the 5th round of the ’84 draft and made an instant splash as a Returner, leading the
league in Kick-off Returns and Kick-off Return Yardage. He also returned one Punt for a touchdown. In 1985, the Chargers decided to ignore the naysayers and the "undersized" moniker and give James more of a role in the offense. Not a bad decision. His 86 Receptions led the AFC, and his 2,545 All Purpose Yards set an NFL record that stood until 2000. And in a game that still brings a smile to Charger fans, he practically single-handedly beat the Raiders when he racked up 345 APY, and scored a touchdown in overtime to win the game. Wait a second… does that sound a little familiar?
Lionel James: Nov. 10, 1985 vs. Raiders
Rushing: 7 carries, 51 yards, 1 touchdown
Receiving: 11 receptions, 168 yards, 1 touchdown
Returns: 5 returns, 126 yards
345 APY, two touchdowns, including one in OT to win the game.
Darren Sproles: Jan. 3, 2009 vs. Colts
Rushing: 22 carries, 105 yards, 2 touchdowns
Receiving: 5 receptions, 45 yards
Returns: 7 returns, 178 yards
328 APY, two touchdowns, including one in OT to win the game.
Will the comparisons ever cease? Probably not. James provides Charger fans with a shorthand for what a little guy with crazy-quick feet did, does, and can do. My hunch is we'll hear James' name mentioned a few times this season.