Tuesday, November 08, 2005 | Indignant New Yorkers can relax now. It’s OK for football fans everywhere to refer to Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson as “LT.”
New Yorkers have griped for some time that anyone dared apply the moniker to a player other than Lawrence Taylor, the original LT and Hall-of-Fame linebacker from the New York Giants’ great teams of the 1980s.
But Tomlinson, the game’s best back and on his way to the Hall of Fame, has the blessing of Taylor to share the nickname. He’s no longer just Our LT in San Diego.
Tomlinson told a story Monday afternoon of meeting Taylor in the offseason at a charity golf tournament that both were invited to play. The 21st century LT said he was a little uneasy at first at how to address Taylor.
“Because in his book, he mentioned LT was the name he went by as a player – something he created for the hype of the game,” Tomlinson said. “I didn’t know what to call him – Mr. Taylor, Lawrence or LT. I think I called him LT, and he smiled. One thing he said to me is, ‘I don’t mind people calling you LT, but when you’re around me you’re Baby LT.’ “
Except Taylor himself alternated between calling him LT and Baby LT the rest of the afternoon. Remember, Taylor is a man with a massive ego. This was no easy concession for him.
But just as the rest of the football world has awakened to learn in the past season-and-a-half, Taylor recognizes Tomlinson as a unique talent.
Tomlinson has been special throughout his first 4.5 seasons in the league, but things change for an athlete’s profile once he plays for a winner – the Chargers advanced to the playoffs last year for the first time in Tomlinson’s career – and he plays the New York stage.
In two games against New York’s NFL teams this year, Tomlinson has combined for 399 total yards and eight touchdowns.
In a Sunday night game with a national ESPN television audience on Sept. 25 against the New York Giants at Qualcomm Stadium, the Chargers won 45-23 as Tomlinson rushed 21 times for 192 yards and three touchdowns, caught six passes for 28 yards and threw a 26-yard touchdown pass on an option play to Keenan McCardell.
In last Sunday’s 31-26 win at the New York Jets, Tomlinson rushed 25 times for 107 yards and three touchdowns and caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown.
“I think it was great for people in New York to see our team,” Tomlinson said. “We played well against both New York teams and that’s brought a lot of attention to our team; people are starting to notice we’ve got a good football team.”
The chant “LT! LT! LT!” has long been heard at Qualcomm Stadium, but Tomlinson says he has been hearing “LT” called out from the stands throughout the year as the Chargers have made their way around the league in games played at Denver, New England, Oakland, Philadelphia and against the Jets at the Meadowlands.
“Most of the time people have accepted me being LT, but you still got your older guys who say LT is Lawrence Taylor,” Tomlinson said. “They want to call me something else, like BLT.”
BLT, short for Baby LT, is OK with Tomlinson. He doesn’t have the demanding ego of many pro athletes, and besides, he added, a BLT is a sandwich he likes.
He guesses friends first started calling him LT when he was 8 years old in Waco, Texas, where he became a star at University High and an All-American at TCU in Fort Worth.
Tomlinson is heading home this weekend, a bye week for the 5-4 Chargers, at the invitation of TCU. The school is honoring him at the Horned Frogs’ final regular-season game Saturday against UNLV.
As folks in Waco and Fort Worth could have told New Yorkers and San Diegans a long time ago, there’s plenty of room in the football world for another LT.
Tom Shanahan has been writing about San Diego athletes at the professional, collegiate and high school levels for 27 years. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions (www.sdhoc.com). You can e-mail him at