LaDainian Tomlinson’s Call To America: ‘Let’s Choose To Be For One Another’ – Forbes

In his freshly tailored gold Hall of Fame jacket, LaDainian Tomlinson made a departure from the routine in his enshrinement speech.

Tomlinson spent the first 20 minutes peppering the address with touching and telling anecdotes while acknowledging all those who helped him in his football life. The former San Diego Charger closed the final six minutes with an emphatic message about the country.

Tomlinson (AP/David Richard)

In an era dominated by argument TV and shallow shouting matches pawned off as public policy conversations and then echoed by social media bots, the record setting former NFL MVP went in a different direction.

He spoke about his family history. His great-great-great grandfather George Tomlinson was brought to America in chains on a slave ship from West Africa. Tomlinson talked about his own story being an American story and he reminded everyone that unless they’re of Native American heritage they all came from another land. Standing behind a podium on a dais of Hall of Fame players, Tomlinson called football a microcosm of America.

“All races, religions and creeds, living, playing, competing side by side,” he said before being interrupted with a standing ovation.

“When you’re part of a team, you understand your teammates their strengths and weaknesses and work together toward the same goal: to win a championship. In this context, I advocate we become Team America.”

He called America the land of opportunity, but he added more to that ideology. “Let’s not slam the door on those who may look or sound different from us. Rather, let’s open it wide for those who believe in themselves, that anything is possible, and are willing to compete and take whatever risks necessary to work hard to succeed.” 

“On America’s Team, let’s not choose to be against one another. Let’s choose to be for one another. My great-great-great grandfather had no choice. We have one. I pray we dedicate ourselves to be the best team we can be, working and living together, representing the highest ideals of mankind, leading the way for all nations to follow.”


Enduring Messages From LaDainian Tomlinson’s Hall of Fame Speech


Have A Big Dream: It’s never too early, or too late, to have big dreams and chase them. At age six, Tomlinson told his mother he’d play in the NFL. When he was seven, he followed up by asking for a weight training set because he’d have to get physically bigger to make the League. The next Christmas, a weight set sat under the tree.

Confidence Droughts: The public sees athletes as the finished product, a polished master of their skills. This the player who has made it. Rarely, do people see the athlete who lacks confidence, the one on the journey. Yet, everyone lacks confidence at some point, especially those with their eyes on big, unthinkable dreams. Tomlinson told a story about being 12 years old and lacking in self confidence as athlete. Then me met his childhood idol, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith, at a football camp. He took a handoff from Smith during a drill and later, at the camp, Smith bumped into him on a set of stairs, grabbing hold of the tween before Tomlinson could fall. After meeting his football hero, Tomlinson said he felt like he was “on top of the world.” Connecting, or re-connecting, to the possibility of those big dreams keeps the goal present versus being taken off course by doubts that arise along the arduous path to fulfillment.

Be Selfless: Tomlinson started on the varsity team as a freshman in high school. He had to switch schools after the family moved. In doing so, he attended a new high school as a sophomore. His new coach made him switch positions. He’d no longer be the ball carrying star running back. Instead, he’d be the fullback, the player blocking for the running back. He did that for two seasons. He disregarded his own wants for what was best for the team. He moved back to running back for his senior year. He earned a scholarship to Texas Christian University and became the fifth overall pick in the 2001 NFL Draft.

Be Part Of The Solution: The Horned Frogs went 1-10 in Tomlinson’s freshman year at TCU. The head coach who recruited him, Pat Sullivan, lost his job. Tomlinson could transfer without any penalty because of the coaching change. He thought about it, but his mother gave him advice. “Don’t quit on your teammates. Be part of the solution.” TCU went to three straight bowl games, a feat the program had not achieved since the team’s inception in 1903.

LaDainian Tomlinson’s Call To America: ‘Let’s Choose To Be For One Another’ – Forbes