Jets’ Tomlinson looking like old, electrifying LT

LaDainian Tomlinson stood in front of his teammates on the Jets’

offense and spoke passionately about hard work, dedication and the

desire to be No. 1.

It got everyone in the room fired up – including Rex Ryan, who

knows a thing or two about motivational speeches.

So, after the running back was done, the coach had him walk down

the hall to deliver the same message to the defense.

”It was powerful listening to a guy that’s worked his entire

career and came here, dedicated himself to his teammates and he’s

chasing the same thing everyone else is,” Ryan said. ”It was from

the heart and it really meant something to everybody.”

The 31-year-old Tomlinson has all the accolades and awards any

player could want – except a Super Bowl ring. That’s one of the

main reasons the seventh-leading rusher in NFL history decided to

come to New York after nine pro seasons.

This, he believes, can be the chance he has been waiting for

since bursting into the league with San Diego in 2001.

”I think this team has the opportunity, really and truly, more

than any other team,” he said, ”to win a championship.”

That’s why Tomlinson felt the need to remind everyone of the big

picture and what they need to get there. He’s got a copy of Vince

Lombardi’s ”What It Takes to Be No. 1” speech hanging in his

home, and Tomlinson shared it with his teammates and coaches.

”I stood in front of the guys and said, ‘Guys, we talk about

being No. 1, we hear our coach talk about some of these things.

This is something Vince Lombardi talked about years ago,”’ he

recalled. ”’So, if we want to be No. 1, these are the things it’s

going to take.’ That was pretty much the gist of the

conversation.”

Healthy and happy, Tomlinson is doing his part, through four

games, to help put the Jets (3-1) on the right path. With every big

run, flashing the same scintillating moves that made him one of the

league’s most exciting players, he’s proving wrong the doubters who

said he had nothing left.

”This is a challenge to me,” he said, ”and I’m going to step

up to it.”

When Tomlinson signed with the Jets in the offseason, it was

believed he would be a complementary part of the offense. He has

been so much more, leading the team with 341 yards rushing and

three touchdowns. Tomlinson is also tied for second with 12 catches

for 82 yards.

”They’re inspired by watching him play,” Ryan said. ”It’s

hard not to be.”

His presence has been felt off the field, too, quickly

establishing himself as a team leader.

”I just remember having dinner and hanging with him,”

quarterback Mark Sanchez said. ”I was like, ‘Man, this guy, I feel

like I’ve known him for 10 years.’ He’s that kind of person and

someone you want on your team. You’re picking a team, he’s one of

the first guys you pick, so we’re thrilled to have him. We’re

pretty lucky.”

Despite everything he accomplished in nine seasons with the

Chargers, Tomlinson had only two teams pursue him in the offseason:

the Jets and Minnesota.

”It was never really close,” Tomlinson said. ”Obviously, my

wife had a lot to do with it, I’m just being honest with you.”

His wife was equally blunt, telling LT: `’I don’t want to go to

Minnesota.”

There was more to it, of course, mostly about what Tomlinson’s

role would be. He got the sense the Vikings needed someone to fill

the role of the departed Chester Taylor as Adrian Peterson’s

backup. With the Jets, he said Ryan told him he would get the

opportunity to play – no defined role. He also had a previous

relationship with Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer,

who was a coach with the Chargers from 2002-05.

”For me, that was a comfort part, knowing I had just came out

of this offense for the past nine years and he was running

basically the same offense,” Tomlinson said. ”In Minnesota, it

was all about learning a whole new, different offense. I also felt

like that would kind of put me behind the 8-ball, just learning a

new offense at this point and time in my career.”

Tomlinson gets a chance to show the Vikings – and everyone else

who wouldn’t give him a shot in the offseason – what they’re

missing on Monday night.

”I know they made a play to get him here and it makes a lot of

sense,” Vikings quarterback Brett Favre said. ”I know what he is

capable of. In my mind, he could have done those things here. He’s

running the ball great, but he’s probably even more of a threat

catching the ball out of the backfield. I have seen no decline, not

one bit.”

Tomlinson was selected as the AFC’s offensive player of the week

after running for 133 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets’ 38-14

win last Sunday over the Buffalo Bills. On his 26-yard scoring run,

he nearly shook Bills safety Donte Whitner out of his shoes –

flashing some vintage L.T. moves.

”It was gratifying because all of those things just build

confidence for me when things like that happen,” he said with a

smile. ”But, honestly, I knew it was there. It was about having

the opportunity to do it.”