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Tomlinson officially retires

Posted Jun 18, 2012

When LaDainian Tomlinson stepped up to the podium this afternoon, everyone in attendance knew what was coming. But that didn’t make it any less emotional as the all-time great hung up his cleats after 11 storied seasons.

Watch the complete LT retirement press conference here.

Flanked by his family and President Dean Spanos, the Chargers all-time leading rusher flashed his trademark grin as he re-signed with the team and then immediately retired.

“Today is a special day, and that is because it is not often a player comes along that defines your team, and the NFL for that manner, for the better part of a decade than LaDainian Tomlinson,” Spanos said as he began the press conference.  “He was the very heart and soul of this organization during one of its most successful decades.  His accomplishments on and off the field were amazing.”

After a two-year stint with the New York Jets, Tomlinson saw it fit to return to San Diego and announce his retirement.  For nine seasons he was the face of the franchise, embodying everything that is great about this city.

“I always felt like I was a Charger,” he said. “The guys, my teammates, the bond we built and the battles (we fought) together were special. I always felt in my heart that I was a Charger, so thanks to the Chargers organization and Dean Spanos and his family.”

Tomlinson ends his career ranked fifth all-time in rushing.  While he felt he still had enough left in the tank to keep adding to that total, he knew in his heart that now was the right time to retire.

“I’ve had five months to actually contemplate and think about retiring,” he said, dressed in a snazzy suit and a plaid blue bowtie. “I knew at the end of the season last year that it may be a possibility that I will walk away from the game, and it wasn’t because I didn’t want to play anymore.  That wasn’t the reason.  It was simply time to move on, and that’s how I look at it …  I did have opportunities to continue to play football. But at the end of the day, it’s time for me to leave the game.  I’m happy with where I am today.  I have no regrets at all.”

Classy as always, Tomlinson thanked countless coaches, teammates and his family for their assistance in making him one of the game’s all-time greats.  As a testament to his character, many of them came out to support him on this emotional day.  In return, he said what he will miss most about the game is the bond he formed with each and every one of them.

“No question what I’ll miss most is the locker room.  The camaraderie and being on the bus and how we used to just enjoy each other. I’ll miss that, no question about it.”

Despite never winning a Super Bowl, Tomlinson referenced a conversation he had with Marty Schottenheimer in which his former coach told him that he had plenty of “championship days” which he will look back on fondly.

“I am OK (with never winning a Super Bowl) because I realize everybody can’t win a championship....But there were championship days for us we celebrated in the locker room.  The touchdown record that day I scored the 31st touchdown, the linemen lifted me up and the whole team celebrated.  They were championship days, for not only myself but my teammates and my family as well.  So I’m ok with never winning a Super Bowl championship (because) I know we’ve got many memories we can call championship days.”

While at times fighting back tears, Tomlinson quoted fellow Chargers great Junior Seau, saying, “Today, I feel like I’m graduating. “ He continued by saying he looks forward to spending more time with his family.

Although he won’t be donning a jersey, Tomlinson plans to remain around the game.  He didn’t say what his exact plans are, but announced he will continue to be around the NFL in some capacity, hinting that something is in the works for the coming season.

While the NFL will never be the same without him on the field, Tomlinson leaves behind a lifetime worth of memories that Chargers fans will cherish forever.

“I know our fans will agree with me, but whenever I watched him play, I always expected something special,” Spanos said, summing up the city’s sentiments. “That’s what he gave us. Special memories we will carry forever.”

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