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Perhaps his most memorable moment as a Charger came on Dec. 10, 2006, when he swept into the end zone late in a game against the Denver Broncos for his third touchdown of the afternoon to break Shaun Alexander's year-old record of 28 touchdowns.
His linemen hoisted him onto their shoulders and carried him toward the sideline, with Tomlinson holding the ball high in his right hand and waving his left index finger, while the fans chanted "L.T.! L.T.!" and "MVP! MVP!"
"I had the best view in the house on some of those awesome runs he made," Rivers said.
"He's just been a great player for us," Smith said. "Also, the character, integrity, work ethic, along with his talent, have been unbelievable. He's a Hall of Famer right now. He will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer."
Coming off a 1-15 finish in 2000, and trying to dig out from the nightmarish Ryan Leaf years, the Chargers held the No. 1 overall pick in the 2001 draft. They sent that pick to the Atlanta Falcons on the day before the draft began for a package that included the fifth pick, which they used to select Tomlinson out of TCU. The Falcons took Michael Vick with the top pick.
"When he came here in 2001, we were a struggling franchise," Spanos said. "It's clear that we are where we are today because of him. He truly has been the heart and soul of our team all these years, and just done an outstanding job and helped turn this franchise around into a winning franchise. It couldn't have been done without him."
Spanos said he and Tomlinson expressed disappointment that the player never got a chance to win a Super Bowl title.
"We came close but just never quite got there," Spanos said.
The Chargers made five playoff appearances during Tomlinson's time here. They advanced to the AFC championship game following the 2007 season but lost to the New England Patriots.
Spanos said Tomlinson "was very, very gracious and very respectful" during their meeting. "He had his typical smile. He was just as good as could be, as respectful as could be. Just really, like he is, first class."
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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