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Former Chargers running back Lionel ‘Little Train’ James dies at 59

James set an NFL record for yards from scrimmage with 2,535 in 1985.

Detroit Lions v San Diego Chargers Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Former Auburn and Chargers running back Lionel James, regarded by many as “Little Train” due to his 5’6, 171-pound frame, passed away on Friday at the age of 59 following a lengthy illness, the school announced.

James played for the Tigers alongside former Heisman Trophy winner Bo Jackson before being selected by the Chargers in the fifth round of the 1984 NFL draft. Though his professional career only last five seasons, James made a name for himself by becoming a do-it-all threat for the Bolts.

As a rookie, James wasted little time in announcing himself in the NFL as he led the entire league in kick return yards with 959.

During the 1985 season, James tallied 516 rushing yards, 1,027 receiving yards, eight toal touchdowns, 213 yards on punt returns, and 779 yards on kick return. He became the first player in NFL history to notch 500 yards on the ground, 1,000 through the air, and 750 yards on kick returns, a feat that hasn’t been repeated since. His total yards from scrimmage of 2,535 also set an NFL record for the time.

In four years for the Tigers, James totaled 2,073 rushing yards with whopping 5.9 yards per carry. Surprisingly, he had just 153 receiving yards in college before converting into a major threat through the air at the next level.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the James’ friends and loved ones.