Wednesday evening, long after the news crews had gone, fans piled in to Bub’s in East Village. They weren’t just there for crunchy tots and beer, Bolt fans were dining out to support the campaign to end hunger in our community. Earlier that afternoon, TangoTab CEO Andre Angel, and LaDainian Tomlinson kicked off the San Diego launch of TangoTab, a brilliant smartphone app that makes it effortless for everyone in San Diego to give back to our community.
The man who once graced our field – our superhero in a visor, soaring over defensive linemen to the end-zone – lit up the eatery as he entered with his unforgettable smile and warm spirit. Fans decked out in Tomlinson jerseys boomed, "L.T., L.T., L.T.!" The chanting was enough to give you chills, and it took me back to the days when he would stiff arm his way to a touch-down and give us all that signature ball flip.
While people were anxious to see the former Chargers running back, fans mingled and rubbed elbows with the true heroes of our community – people like Kaye de Lancey, Director of Development at the Jacobs and Cushman San Diego Food Bank and Jeff Elliott, Director of San Diego Operations for Tomlinson’s Touching Lives Foundation. It was clear that these were the true VIPs at the event and L.T.’s ambassadors in San Diego’s fight against hunger.
In a candid conversation, Andre Angel discussed the inspiration behind TangoTab and L.T.’s involvement with the program. When I asked how he became passionate about feeding the hungry, Andre described his first-time experience volunteering with his son at a food bank in their hometown of Plano, Texas three years ago. Andre told me: "I was shocked to see the number of people walking through the door who looked like you and me." His passion for aiding others grew, and after creating TangoTab, Andre tapped in to his connection with a number of professional athletes to expand the app’s reach and its mission to end hunger. Teaming up with L.T. was a perfect match - allowing L.T. to give back to San Diego on a daily basis.
As we know, LaDainian has continued to dedicate himself to the San Diego community long after his work as a Charger. I personally feel grateful that someone who’s not from San Diego loves this city enough to step up, pick up the proverbial "torch", and continue the community traditions for which players like Junior Seau paved the way.
Now it is L.T. who is paving the way. Ryan Mathews seems to be following in L.T.’s footsteps in more ways than one. Ryan, who is not affiliated with TangoTab, appears to be indirectly connected to the project’s undertaking. In a touching video by ESPN in 2010, Ryan’s mom Tricia remembers struggling as a young mother, homeless, and visiting food banks with her infant son. Today Ryan is doing his part to give back through the Trish and Ryan Mathews Door of Hope Chest, a program through the Salvation Army designed to help homeless mothers and their children get a fresh start.
Keeping true to his friendly and open spirit, L.T. made himself accessible to his fans, taking photos and chatting casually. Jenna and I were fortunate enough to steal a few minutes with Chargers legend. When the conversation led to Ryan, the best season of his career, and his work with the Salvation Army, L.T. lit up with a smile. LaDainian may be retired from football, but his career is far from over. While his on-field legacy is sure to be long-lasting, I suspect he will be remembered just as much, if not more, for his contributions off the field.
Here are a few pictures from the event: