(Eric Dickerson photo courtesy of L.A. Rams)
(LaDainian Tomlinson photo courtesy of San Diego Chargers)
Talk of Fame Network
Former running back LaDainian Tomlinson isn’t just one of the 94 candidates on this year's preliminary ballot for the Hall-of-Fame's Class of 2017. He's the leading contender to make the Hall on his first try.
And he should be, says Hall-of-Famer running back Eric Dickerson, who cast his unofficial vote for L.T. on the most recent broadcast of the Talk of Fame Network.
"The thing I liked about LT's game," said Dickerson, "was that you never knew when; but it was going to happen sooner or later. He was going to break a big run, if it was out of the backfield or catching a screen play. He was always that home-run hitter. And that’s what I liked about his game.
"They were never out of it when he played for San Diego. He gave the San Diego fans a lot of pride and a lot of excitement. When you have a player that ... any minute you never now what's going to happen … that’s the kind of guy who's a Hall-of-Fame player.
"(Opponents) were like, 'O.K., we have to game-plan this guy.' And when teams played the Chargers back in those days, they had to game-plan LT. And, if not, he would hurt them."
Unlike Dickerson, Tomlinson never rushed for 2,000 yards in a season. Nor did he set a rookie rushing record like the former Rams' running back. But he did lead the league in rushing twice, was a league MVP and Offensive Player of the Year, was an all-decade choice, holds the NFL scoring record with 31 touchdowns (including 28 rushing) in one season and is the NFL's fifth all-time leading rusher.
That should make the decision on Tomlinson easy … which provokes another question: Is making Canton on your first try a big deal? Fans think so. But what about those who finally reach the Hall?
"I didn’t think about it as much if I was first-ballot or not," said Dickerson. "But for a player, I think it really is, to be honest with you. Because it shows the respect the game has for you and you have for the game, and the respect that the players have for you, also. It shows: Look, this guy is, for sure, a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think most of the guys in the Hall on the first ballot are very proud of going in on the first ballot. They can always say, 'Hey, I was a first-ballot Hall of Famer.' "