L.T. honors Payton a day after passing Sweetness on rushing TD list Print
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Monday, 03 December 2007 14:16
NFL Headline News

 SAN DIEGO (AP) -LaDainian Tomlinson still had Walter Payton on his mind a day after passing Sweetness on the all-time rushing touchdowns list.
Had him on his back, too.
Tomlinson wore a No. 34 Chicago Bears road jersey on Monday to honor his boyhood idol.
``I think this is the sign of ultimate respect, just to say thank you, and that's my whole point in this,'' Tomlinson said. ``Just to say thank you, to allow a kid like myself to really dream and imagine I could go beyond my wildest dreams.''
Tomlinson has accomplished plenty in seven NFL seasons, including winning the league MVP Award last year. Scoring his 110th and 111th touchdowns during a 177-yard performance on Sunday to pass Payton and take sole possession of third place on the rushing TDs list meant more than just helping the Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 24-10 and move closer to a second straight AFC West title.
``I usually leave it in the house, but obviously it's a fitting situation,'' he said of wearing his Payton jersey. ``He obviously was someone I idolized as a kid, childhood hero, whatever you want to call it. He was there for me. So it is a little more special to me.''
Tomlinson never met Payton, who died in 1999.
``No, and that's the part that I would have loved to do, but never did get the chance. But I felt like I knew him anyway because I saw him so much on television and what not. So I felt like I did know him,'' Tomlinson said.
Just watching Payton left a mark on Tomlinson.
``I learned what character's all about, I think, even from afar. I learned how to be humble,'' Tomlinson said. ``I think I also learned how to compete the right way. I think those are very important things that I definitely learned by watching him.''
Inspired by watching Payton, Tomlinson remembers telling his mother when he was 6 years old that he needed a weight set in order to get bigger and stronger.
Tomlinson also picked up several attributes that have shaped his life.
``He was a guy that was a superstar,'' Tomlinson said. ``It wasn't just his superstar ability that I looked to, even though that was the part that I was drawn to. It was obvious that there was something else about him that was different. He didn't tell you he was a superstar, didn't brag about it or what not. It just seems the way he handled people was just the way you should.''
In February, Tomlinson and former teammate Drew Brees were co-recipients of the Walter Payton Man of the Year award. Tomlinson met the Hall of Famer's widow, Connie, and their two children.
``I was very impressed with the family, just getting to know them a little bit,'' Tomlinson said. ``I kind of felt like, here was a man that I knew what he meant for me, but this was a piece of them, all three of them. I remember Mrs. Payton told me that her daughter said that out of everybody, that I reminded her of her father. For me at the time, it kind of, I don't know, it was just a humbling experience.''
Tomlinson knows he can pass along Payton's legacy of doing things the right way.
``But I think we have to get the kids to really to listen now because it's amazing that so many of the kids now are getting bad,'' he said. ``I would say guys with guns and all this kind of stuff, with the Sean Taylor incident, these guys are teenagers. It's mind-boggling to me of where we are right now. Somewhere along the line we have lost the proper respect for the guys that have come before you. We have to get that back.
``But it takes a lot of us. We have to all say something about it and stand up and take responsibility to what is going on right now.''
The Bears were mired in a long stretch of mediocrity when they drafted Payton. The Chargers were, too, when they took Tomlinson with the fifth pick overall in the 2001 draft.
``There definitely are some similarities between us in that way'' Tomlinson said. ``Let's just hope my career ends like his with a Super Bowl ring. That is all I can ask for.''
The Chargers have won two straight and six of eight. They can clinch the AFC West on Sunday if they win at Tennessee and the Denver Broncos lose at home to Kansas City.
Notes: DE Jacques Cesaire had arthroscopic surgery on his thumb Monday, but the team said he should be able to play Sunday. ... The Chargers haven't made consecutive playoff appearances since 1994-95 under coach Bobby Ross.
 

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