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"My Life with LT" by Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson
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By Running Backs Coach Ollie Wilson
I remember a lot of stuff about LT, but first of all, the two guys coming out that year were LT and Deuce McAllister. I had gone to work out Deuce McAlister first, and John Butler was the general manager here at the time, and he said to me that LT reminds him of Thurman Thomas. Well I came back from the workout with Deuce McAlister and I said, “It will be hard to beat this guy because he was something at the workout.’ He also worked as a receiver, and he was talented.
Well, I went down to work out LT, and pretty much the whole league was there. I would say there were probably 25 running backs coaches there, and it was over 100 degrees. We worked him hard, and I came back and said, “John, bottom line, that is the best player in this draft.”
I remember he held out that year, and he didn’t come into camp until the third week of the preseason. He had a book, and every night I’d call him and he’d have an idea what we were doing, but he wasn’t doing it physically. Well, he came in and had fresh legs and was doing good things. That week we were playing at Arizona in a preseason game. We put him in for eight plays and took him out, and he was irate!
He was so mad!
But I said, “Hey, you haven’t been in camp for weeks. You’re going to go out there, get fatigued and get hurt.” I think we played Washington in the opener the next week, and he ran for 115 yards. He had two touchdowns. He just went crazy.
I’ll remember how when he came in, LT said to me, "I’m not trying to disrespect anybody, but I’m going to be the best ever." That was his day one comment to me when he started, and we worked hard. One thing we did in the offseason that year which I thought was really good, we called NFL films for footage of Tony Dorsett, Jim Brown, Gale Sayers, Floyd Little and I can’t remember who the other guy was, but we studied them. I remember it was Tiger Woods who said you appreciate what you do when you understand where you came from. So what we did was we watched film on them, and I’d put up my five top and he’d put up his five top, and we’d come to an agreement on what we thought that guy was. It was one, to see where he fit as far as his skills, but also to have him study the game and respect the guys.
LT was a big Emmitt Smith fan. I mean, huge. So it was one of those things where he did everything he could to be a great player. And if it was something he felt could make him a great player, he went 100% into it.
I probably realized how special he’d become right around the middle of the season. With great running backs, it is kind of like in a game. In the beginning of the season you are trying to figure it out, but in the middle of the season it got to a point where he figured it out. He started to see what people wanted to do to him, so by the end of the season he had over 1,200 yards. He was amazing. He really was.
LT deserves everything he gets because he worked at it. He was fun to work with. I’m just disappointed that I left after that first year, and then all of a sudden he’s running around going crazy. I’d call him up and he’d be like, “Coach, did you see that one? That was a good one! Remember when we did that when I was a rookie? I did it again.’ But he was so excited about all the things he was accomplishing because that was his goal from day one. To be the best ever.
When I came back in 2008, it was exciting. It’s funny, it was one of those things that when Norv Turner hired me, I was sitting in the office and LT popped around the door and he gave me a big smile. He said,
“Hey, you’re back!” and I said “Yup, I’m back!” It was one of those things where it was a natural adjustment. Sometimes it’s hard changing when a new coach comes in. With LT, he was like, “Oh, I remember that drill! I remember when we used to blast the sled. We’re still doing that again?” And I’d say, “Yup, we’re doing that again!” So he knew pretty much all my drills before we got started because he’d done them all. But it was fun. To come back around a great player like that, it was fun for me.
To be able to look up and see that number 21 hanging up there, that will be special. When he retired, he mentioned how I told him if he does the right things, he will own San Diego. I told him I know you’re from Texas, but you’ll own San Diego because you are doing it the right way. You are a great player, a great person, a great husband and a great father. So the bottom line is, you do it the right way, you’ll own the city. And he mentioned that when he retired. It was a special thing.
It’s fun for me because I had Eric Dickerson his last year in Atlanta. He was just about ready to retire and pretty much things were done by him. But I learned a lot from him because we would talk about some of the things he’d done in his career. Well, it was the same with LT. We were at the Combine about two years ago, and I was looking at players, and he was on the field doing some stuff. So we sat there for about 30 or 45 minutes, and I asked him what he thought about certain players. And I respected what he said because he knows what he’s doing. He knows what he’s talking about. So we’d talk about a guy, and he’d explain how this guy lacks a little bit in speed, but he makes up for it in his power. That kind of analysis. So it was like talking with a coach because he went into that kind of length.
To know he’s getting his number retired, going into our Hall of Fame and everything else that will come, well, that is exactly what he said when he came in. Again, he said, “Coach, this is no disrespect to anyone, but I want to be the best ever.” And he worked at it. He worked to try to be the best ever, so it was fun. I’m happy for him.