As LaDainian Tomlinson prepares to enter football eternity by being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he spent much of his pre-induction presser talking about the people who were with him at the beginning: his high school coaches.
One of those coaches is Mike Chapman. Chapman was University High School in Waco, Texas' freshman football coach when Tomlinson transferred in as a sophomore. Although they weren't on the same team, Chapman said LT would help out, and they forged a tight bond along with the varsity head coach LeRoy Coleman.
"I had played varsity at my other school as a freshman so when I got to University, I walked in, talked to Coach Coleman and thought I was going to have a starting job at the running back position," Tomlinson reminisced. "But he said, 'No, we have running backs. We need a fullback though!'"
LT went on to play fullback that season. He even played both sides of the ball, a selfless move that ultimately benefitted his team.
"LT is too humble to say it, but when he was asked why he played fullback or both sides of the ball, it was because that helped the team," Chapman said. "He knew his talents, he could have said he wanted to play tailback, but he didn't do that. He played where Coach Coleman and the coaching staff wanted him to play, and he's been that way his entire life."
"Most of us in high school at that time were in the position where we were so impressionable," LT added. "Our coaches are our teachers; they truly have a great impact on us. Coach Coleman, early on, when I thought I was this great athlete, had a way of humbling you and making you a selfless player. That's what he did for my career early. All of our coaches were like that. You had to earn it and they weren't going to baby you. You had to earn it, but they made sure you were respectful at the same time. Coaches like Coach Chapman demanded respect and made sure you did it the right way on and off the field."
As he went on to have a storied career in college and the pros, Chapman isn't the least bit surprised at LT's success. As a matter of fact, having seen him grow up before his very own eyes, he always knew LT was special.
"We could tell," Chapman said. "Especially as a senior in high school, you could tell he was going to be special. (Before) he went on to TCU, we were hoping he was going to stay close so we could watch him play. When he went on to TCU, that was nice."
Although Tomlinson is leaving behind a legacy unlike any other, Chapman admitted LT is still the same person. He still is that kid from Waco looking out for others and doing the best he possibly can.
"He was like that in high school. He was one in high school where you didn't have to worry about his grades. You didn't have to worry about discipline. He was one who always took care of his business and he did that the whole time he was at University. He was never a problem. You could tell that once he made it, he was going to continue that. I mean he comes and gives back to the community and everyone in Waco loves that."