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Q&A: Mike Tolbert

Posted Sep 15, 2011

Mike Tolbert talks about his relationship with Ryan Mathews, what goes through his mind after he crosses the goal line and why his teammates call him a vulture.

SAN DIEGO – The Chargers’ 5-foot-9, 243-pound human bowling ball is one of the most athletic players on the team.

Mike Tolbert has morphed from an undrafted fullback and strong special teams contributor (2008-09) to a bruising running back and spot starter (2010) to the third-down back asked to handle pass-pro, catch passes and ram his way into the end zone near the goal line (this year).

Tolbert caught a career-high nine passes Sunday against the Vikings and is tied for the NFL lead in receptions through Week 1. He became the third Chargers player ever to score two receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game with his performance against Minnesota.

P.J. Pullara; Gilbert, Ariz.

What’s it like to have been an undrafted rookie free agent and then become a major contributor to a team of this caliber?

It’s a blessing just to be able to say, ‘I’ve done it, I’ve made it and I’m here.’ It’s proof that hard work pays off. Not just football-wise, but studying in the classroom and getting my nose in the books.

Tim Shaw; Valencia, Calif.

How did you end up going to Coastal Carolina?

I had a couple big scholarship offers. I was smart in high school but my SAT scores weren’t good enough for those schools. Coach (David) Bennett, Coach (Keith) James and Coach (Drew) Watson all came down to my house and sold me on starting the tradition. When I went to the school I fell in love with it. The end result is the same so I can’t complain.

Garrett Rowan; Whittier, Calif.

I see you and Ryan Mathews have developed a sweet handshake after either of you score a touchdown. What is your relationship like and how have you guys supported each other?

We pride ourselves on putting the team first. Whether it be myself getting three touchdowns or Ryan scoring two or three touchdowns, as long as we are winning and having fun that’s all that counts. Ryan is going to be a hell of a player. I’m here to support him. We’re both still learning. We don’t have a name for our handshake. One day in practice we just came up with it and it stuck.

Gabriel Caldera; Bloomington, Calif.

What goes through your mind when you see a defender coming and you’re carrying the ball? Do you automatically think you’re going to run him over, or is it just a reaction?

It’s a split-second decision and I don’t really think about it. If I run him over, I run him over. If I try and make a move, I try and make a move. I don’t think about it, it just happens.

Brandon Magpanta; San Diego

Every time you score we see the best touchdown celebrations. Where did you learn to dance and are any of your touchdown dances the same, or are they all different?

I think they’re always different. I never rehearse them or look at things online that I want to do. I cross the goal line and it’s like, ‘OK, let’s get funky with it. Let’s dance!’ I told Antonio Garay I was glad the Vikings game was over because I don’t know what I would have done if I scored a fourth touchdown. You can’t run out of touchdown dances in the first game.

Alec Romero; San Diego

How have you and the rest of the team prepared, both mentally and physically, for this Sunday’s showdown against New England?

I think we’ve mentally keyed in. We’ve been out here at practice going through the looks, going through the reps. I think we’re going to be ready to go up to Foxborough and play some good football.

Kevin Mendoza; San Diego

Boxing was a big part of your offseason training. Tell us about your workout regimen and how it has improved your performance on the football field.

I worked out twice a day for six months almost. Boxing is correlated so much with your balance, your feet, catching angles and hand placement. It does so much to help with football. The boxing workout itself is crazy and gets your body in shape to do anything. Stuff on the field is nothing compared to what my boxing workouts were like.

Robert McDermott; Spring Valley Lake, Calif.

Natrone Means was the last bruising running back we saw in a Chargers uniform. Who are some of the running backs you pattern your game after?

My favorite running back of all-time is Earl Campbell. I’ve actually had the chance to meet him a few times. I like Jerome Bettis too. I talk to Natrone (Means) all the time, I’ve talked to Lorenzo Neal a lot of times. I try to incorporate parts of their skill sets into my own.

Jose Flores; San Diego

What kind of cars are in your collection and which one is your favorite? Any future purchases on the horizon?

I had a 1973 Chevy Caprice on 26-inch rims but I sold it. Right now my favorite is my 2011 (Chevy) Camaro. There’s a new Cadillac car coming out: the XTS, fully loaded, platinum edition. I can’t wait for it to come out in 2012 because you know I’m going to get it!

Deann English; Tacoma, Wash.

Where is your favorite spot to eat in San Diego and back home in Georgia?

My favorite spot to eat in San Diego is the Gaslamp Strip Club and Rocky’s Crown Pub in Pacific Beach. Back home, I would have to say Zaxby’s.

Andrew Garrett; La Mesa, Calif.

You scored all three touchdowns in the Chargers’ 21-17 win against the Vikings on Sunday. Are you going to let anyone else score?

I mean, I will. I’m not greedy. Some of my teammates know when we get on the goal line or inside the 5-yard line, ‘Here comes The Vulture.’ They call me The Vulture because I steal everybody’s touchdowns. If you leave it there I’m going to take it. If other people are going to score they’re going to score. If not, they’re going to put me in and I’m going to eat. I love it, but as long as we’re winning I don’t care who scores.

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