Last night in Canton, Ohio, LaDainian Tomlinson received his gold jacket and was forever immortalized in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Standing up on stage after being presented by former Chargers FB Lorenzo Neal, Tomlinson delivered a heartfelt speech that perfectly encompassed who he is as a person. Humble and selfless. Through all of LT’s success, he has never forgotten the people who helped him get to where he is, and it was evident in his speech.
He began by acknowledging the players he looked up to as a kid, saying: “I grew up watching, idolizing and dreaming about running the football like the legendary Jim Brown, the late Walter Payton, and the all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith. Today I stand on the shoulders of these great men, and on this stage with you tonight.”
LT goes on to give special thanks to God, his cousin Broderick, and his mom. “People ask me, where do you get your work ethic from? It was my mom.” Anyone who has heard Tomlinson speak before knows how much love and respect he has for his mom, who he has constantly praised for helping him achieve his dream. “I was motivated to work hard by watching her constantly confronting and conquering life’s challenges.”
He continues by telling the story of how his mom saved up enough money for him to attend former Cowboys tight end Jay Novacek’s football camp where LT’s idol, Emmitt Smith, was going to appear. Thanks to the hard work of his mom, LT was able to go to the camp, where he met his Idol, and that turned out to be a pivotal moment in his life. “Because of two astonishing moments with my idol, a 12-year-old kid who entered camp lacking self-confidence as an athlete left on top of the world feeling he could truly fulfill his dream to play in the National Football League.”
LaDainian then talks about his time in high school, where he played full back and outside linebacker for two years after transferring to a new school. LT credits this teaching him how to be a selfless player and gives credit to his coach.
It’s at this point Tomlinson starts to thank everyone that has helped him get to that point, starting with his alma mater, TCU, where he says he grew into a man. He thanks the Spanos family for giving him his first opportunity, and gives special thanks to former Chargers head coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was in attendance. “Marty Schottenheimer was the best coach I’ve ever had, and we won five division titles. Marty, will you and your wife Pat please stand to be acknowledged.”
This wasn't the last time he asked someone he thanked to stand. He would go on to thank many of his former teammates by names including, Junior Seau, Drew Brees, Doug Flutie, and Lorenzo Neal who he says taught him how to be a teammate. He asks all his Chargers teammates to stand for acknowledgment.
It's clear just how much it means to LT that his friends and mentors get the respect he feels they deserve for their role in his journey. He knows exactly how important they've been to his success, and he wants everyone else to know it too. He then goes on to thank the New York Jets, the medical staff from his time as a player, and of course, his wife LaTorsha.
In a truly emotional ending, Tomlinson tells the story of his great great great grandfather who came to the United States as a slave. He conveyed that story into a message of unity for everyone. It is a really heartfelt and inspiring message that I don't think I could give justice to by explaining. It’s one of those things that's more of an experience to listen to, and highly I recommend everyone listen to LT tell it in its entirety.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s speech was one of a man who truly has been humbled and deeply impacted by those close to him, and the experiences he has had. Tomlinson is the embodiment of what everyone should strive to be, not just as an athlete, but as a person as well. Selfless, hard working, motivated, and humble. He is the type of person that uses his influence to do great things. LaDainian Tomlinson is the consummate professional on and off the field. There has perhaps never been a candidate more deserving of HoF honors. So, to LT, thank you. Thank you for the memories of your time as a Charger that we’ll hold forever. Thank you for being the person you are, and a positive role model for others to look up to. I think I speak for all Chargers fans when I say, congratulations on your induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. You have earned it.
You can watch LaDainian Tomlinson’s full HoF speech at the link below: