LaDainian Tomlinson thanked many people in his Hall of Fame speech, but his theme focused on his roots.
The former Chargers and Jets running back, who owns NFL records for most touchdowns in a single season (31), most rushing touchdowns in a season (28) and most points in a season (186), began his 26-minute speech speaking of responsibility.
“All the men on this stage who’ve played this great game understand our responsibility extends beyond the football field,” Tomlinson said. “We don’t merely represent ourselves. We represent the game, our team, our community. To play in the NFL is an honor, a privilege, not simply a right.”
Tomlinson ended by thanking a man he never met. Tomlinson’s great, great, great grandfather arrived in the United States 170 years ago in chains on a slave ship from West Africa.
“The family legacy that began in such a cruel way has given birth to generations of successful, caring Tomlinson’s,” Tomlinson said. “I firmly believe that God chose me to help bring two races together under one last name. Tomlinson. I’m of mixed race, and I represent America. My story is America’s story. All our ancestors, unless we’re American Indian, came from another country, another culture. Football is a microcosm of America. All races, religions and creeds living, playing, competing side by side.
“. . . 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. One of the most eloquent orators of our time said it best in his farewell address. Paraphrasing and humbly building upon what President Obama said, ‘We all have to try harder, show up, dive in and stay at it.’ I am asking you to believe in your ability to bring about change, to hold fast to the faith and the idea whispered by slaves: Yes, we can.”