RB LaDainian Tomlinson on NFL career: I wanted to be Walter Payton

For Class of 2017 Hall of Famer LaDainian Tomlinson, football has always been his life.

“I fell in love with football with my dad,” LT said during a conference call with reporters on Thursday, “He would always find the [Chicago] Bears on TV, and seeing Walter Payton play, I wanted to be him, be a running back.”

Not to mention, LT grew up in Waco, Texas, and played football at TCU a place where ‘football is religion.’  Being surrounded by great football talent in Texas at a young age, Tomlinson knew he wanted to be an NFL star, but one moment in particular changed his football career path forever.

At 12-years-old, LT went to a football camp in Texas, a camp that had a special guest coach: Then-Cowboys running back  and now fellow Hall-of-Famer Emmitt Smith.

“It changed my life,” LT said about meeting Smith, “Being there in front of him, really getting to meet him, it showed me that he was a real person.”

What Tomlinson saw in Smith was a tangible example to chase, and that’s what LT’s advice is for young players:

“Find a great example you can follow after. Dream about it, love the game, and work every single day for it.”

After a prolific 11-season NFL career, setting records in rushing, touchdowns, and winning MVP, Tomlinson will be eternalized in the football Hall of Fame.

“It was surreal. Raw emotion, jubilation, all that stuff,” Tomlinson said of getting the official bid to the HOF.

He was nervous, though, when the call didn’t come at the right time:

“The wait was so long I wasn’t sure I got in, maybe I didn’t make it.”

Now working in the front office for the Los Angeles Chargers, Tomlinson doesn’t see a conflict in his time as a San Diego Charger:

“To me, its always been about the lightning bolt.”