CANTON, Ohio — LaDainian Tomlinson produced one of the most spectacular careers in NFL history, but it was his message of inclusion that brought fans gathered for Saturday night's Hall of Fame induction ceremony to their feet.
After revealing that he is the descendant of a slave, Tomlinson — the former Chargers star running back—- offered himself up as an example of what can happen when people are given a chance, regardless of their background.
"My great, great, great grandfather, George, was brought here in chains on a slave ship from West Africa," Tomlinson said. "His last name, Tomlinson, was given by the slave owner. What extraordinary courage it must have taken to rebuild his life after it was stolen.
"The family legacy that began in such a cruel way has given birth to a generation of successful, caring Tomlinsons. I believe God chose me to bring two races together under one last name, Tomlinson. I'm a mixed race, and I represent America. My story is America's story . Football is a microcosm of America, all races, all creeds competing, side by side."
He concluded his speech by saying: "On America's team, let's not choose to be against one another. Let's choose to be for one another. My great, great, great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow."
Tomlinson was one of seven inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was joined by Rams and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner; Cowboys owner Jerry Jones; Broncos running back Terrell Davis; Dolphins, Redskins and Jets defensive end Jason Taylor; Saints, Falcons, Giants, Chiefs and Vikings kicker Morten Andersen; and Seahawks safety Kenny Easley.
The fifth overall selection in the 2001 draft, Tomlinson won rushing titles in 2006-07, taking league MVP honors in '06 when he set a record with 31 touchdowns. Also a strong receiver, he added 4,772 yards and 17 TD receptions to his career numbers for 13,684 yards rushing and 145 scores. Tomlinson also threw seven touchdown passes.
From 2004-05, he set a league mark with 18 straight game with a rushing TD.
The 2006 NFL man of the year, Tomlinson was voted to the 2000s All-Decade Team.