Future Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson made it official Monday, signing a one-day contract with his original team, the San Diego Chargers, and announcing his retirement from the National Football League.
The five-time Pro Bowler finishes his career as the league's fifth all-time leading rusher with 13,684 yards while ranking third with 162 total touchdowns. After spending the last two seasons with the New York Jets, the 32-year-old Tomlinson said that he had opportunities to play elsewhere, but felt that the time was now to move on to the next chapter in his life.
"I knew at the end of the season last year that it (retirement) may be a possibility," Tomlinson said of a decision five months in the making. "It wasn't because I did not want to play anymore. That wasn't the reason. It was simply time to move on."
During his announcement, Tomlinson echoed the words of the late Junior Seau, a fellow Chargers legend who passed away on May 2, 2012.
"One thing I remember is when Junior Seau, when he retired, and he was up here, standing up, giving his speech. One thing that stood out to me is he said 'I'm graduating today.' And that's the way I look at it," Tomlinson said. "I've been playing football twenty-something years, and so at some point, it almost seems like school every year. Where you sacrifice so much, and there's so much that you put on the line -- mentally and physically, with your body, everything.
"And so today, I take the words of Junior Seau. I feel like I'm graduating. I really do, because I've got my life ahead of me. I'm healthy, I'm happy with a great family, and I'm excited to now be a fan and watch you guys play."
Chargers president Dean Spanos called Tomlinson "the heart and soul of this organization during one of its most successful decades." He added that "without question," Tomlinson has had a Hall of Fame career, predicting a selection to Canton in LT's first year of eligibility in 2017.
Spanos also hinted at the future retirement of Tomlinson's No. 21 jersey. That honor would put him alongside Seau and Hall of Famers Dan Fouts and Lance Alworth as Chargers who have had their jerseys retired by the organization.