Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2006 | Five burning questions about Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson:

1) What’s LaDainian Tomlinson doing today on the players’ day off?

He planned an early morning visit to Rady’s Children’s Hospital for his sixth annual Touching Lives Holiday Program. Tomlinson and teammates will give out 1,500 toys.

Most running backs, who carry the ball 25 times for 199 yards and two touchdowns in an NFL game, need to stay in bed and rest. But not Tomlinson.

“When I have programs like that, I’ll probably get up around 5:30 or 5:45,” Tomlinson said. “I always think of it as this is a special time of the year. It won’t hurt me to get up and doing something special for other people and add smile on their faces. I can go to bed early or when I get home. I’ll go to bed by 7 or 8 o’clock if I need to. But I’ve never been a person to sleep in. I can’t lay in bed. My wife gets on me about that, because she can sleep all day. She says, ‘Why don’t you just rest sometime,’ but I can’t.”

2) Tomlinson is widely regarded as a good guy. What do teammates tease him about in locker-room chatter?

“He’s probably the only guy we don’t have a solid joke to crack about him all the time and get on him,” said Chargers outside linebacker Shawne Merriman. “He’s real humble and doesn’t do a lot of talking. He just goes out and plays football. Other guys on the team, we can get on them for talking trash or wearing certain things. Everyday I get picked on for something – shoes, clothes or a tight shirt. They’ll get on me for something everyday, but it’s hard to get on LT for something.”

3) Fullback Lorenzo Neal calls Tomlinson “Superman without a cape.” Is there anything LT can’t do?

Yes, he can’t kick field goals and extra-points like Paul Hornung.

Tomlinson broke Hornung’s 46-year-old season scoring record with two touchdowns to give him an NFL record of 31 for the season for NFL record of 186 points for the season.

Horning’s NFL record was 176 points with 15 touchdowns, 41 extra-points and 15 field goals.

“That’s one thing that will never happen,” Tomlinson said of him kicking for points. “I’m sure of that.”

Tomlinson when he played at University High in Waco, Texas, tried punting.

“I was the backup punter in high school,” he said. “I got beat out for the No. 1 job. But I always said I didn’t want the title of a punter anyway. That’s the reason I let the guy beat me out.”

4) Tomlinson leads the NFL in rushing with 1,626 yards and could win his first NFL rushing title. The offensive line and blocking back Lorenzo Neal have played big roles and earned national attention for their play. Is there anybody else to credit?

Yes, the wide receivers ability to block downfield. That was especially apparent on LT’s 85-yard touchdown run – the longest of his career – Sunday night against the Chiefs.

“(The receivers) have done a great job all year,” Tomlinson said. “Whenever the long runs come, they’re the reason why. Those guys can block the four defensive backs (downfield). They usually have an option, and they’ve done a great job of picking the most dangerous guy. I wouldn’t have scored if Vincent (Jackson) hadn’t gone to the safety. He could have blocked the cornerback that was running with him, but he felt the safety was more dangerous by the goal line. He was able to get that block for me to get me into the end zone.”

5) After getting up early today, what’s LT doing tonight?

He’ll be at the Poinsettia Bowl cheering for TCU, his alma mater, when the Horned Frogs face Northern Illinois at Qualcomm Stadium.

With Tomlinson from TCU and Chargers backup running back Michael Turner from Northern Illinois, it’s only natural the two players have a wager between them.

“I guess we’ll have jerseys,” Tomlinson said. “He’ll have a Michael Turner Northern Illinois jersey, No. 32 or No. 33, and I’ll have a No. 5 (TCU) jersey. He’ll end up wearing the No. 5 jersey. There is no way I expect TCU to lose to Michael Turner’s Northern Illinois Huskies.”

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org’s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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