(New York Jets Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson trained with Mission Viejo High School Students at a Gatorade G Series PRO and GNC athletic performance clinic. Tomlinson worked with the students on agility and coordination drills, as well as discussing the importance of proper sports hydration and nutrition (Credit: Gatorade, Susan Goldman.)
Last week BOLTHYPE had the privilege of interviewing LaDainian Tomlinson at the Gatorade G-Series Athletic Performance Clinic at Mission Viejo High School. As a spokesperson for the new Gatorade G-Series, LT spoke to high school football players about the importance of nutrition, hydration, and hard work.
As an athlete, LT’s intense workout regiment was established following his 2001 rookie season with the Chargers. It was after his first pro season that veterans in the league, including Emmitt Smith and Barry Sanders, gave Tomlinson the secrets of their long and prosperous careers, both of which started with proper nutrition and training.
With a group of impressionable high school athletes surrounding him, LT also discussed the importance of building trust with their families, coaches, and teammates. As LT looked around the crowd, he asked how many of them had younger siblings at home. With a number of hands raised, LT nailed his point home, challenging the players to be good examples that their younger siblings could emulate. He said that when it comes to the way these kids lives their lives, it was time to “step up and be men,” to be leaders on the field and off.
With Tomlinson’s talk completed, a team of athletic trainers took over, re-emphasizing the lessons of hard work and proper nutrition previously discussed by LT. They then broke the team up into groups and put them through a number of drills to improve agility and performance. I couldn’t help but wonder what was going through their heads as the kids began to run drills with a future NFL Hall of Fame player watching them. LT took an active interest in the different drills being conducted on the field, cheering players on and even lightheartedly teasing players if they missed a step.
Following the first series of drills, I had a chance to speak to LT about his participation in this event and more…
Bolt Hype reporter Jeff Williams interviewed former Charger Running Back LaDainian Tomlinson at Mission Viejo High School’s Gatorade G Series PRO and GNC athletic performance clinic (Credit: Gatorade, Susan Goldman).
Jeff Williams: Thanks LaDainian. First off let’s talk about Gatorade and the Athletic Performance Clinic. Have you been working with them in the APC a long time?
LaDainian Tomlinson: Yeah, I’ve built up a pretty good relationship with Gatorade, and obviously with them starting the G-series program, it fits right in with what I’m all about. The nutrition part of it, the recovery part of it, and as you know when you start to get a little older…
Jeff: (Laughing) Hey, what are you trying to tell me?
LT: (Laughs) No, you know how it is! I’m just saying that as you get a little older, especially in my line of work, you got to keep up with these young guys, you got to make sure that you’re hydrating right, and focused on nutrition and all that kind of stuff. I just think (the Athletic Performance Clinic) fits perfectly with what I’m trying to do.
Jeff: Anytime I see coverage of LT, there’s always a focus on your training program and your training regimen. With the Chargers you talked a lot about that. Every year you attributed your success to the extra work that you put in, and the lessons that Emmitt Smith gave you, and as you said to the kids today, the lessons that Barry Sanders gave you. Is that something that you are passing on to the younger NFL generation, the guys like Ryan Mathews and Adrian Peterson?
LT: Yeah, and Shonn Greene, absolutely. I think that once we’re done in the NFL, we still kind of live on and live through some of the guys that you have had an impact on, like you mentioned Adrian Peterson, Shonne Green, Chris Johnson, some of those guys. I think that’s a part of being in that fraternity of the NFL because Emmitt, Barry, Jim Brown, they did it for me, and so I got to continue to pass on what I learned from them to (the younger generation).
Jeff: You said when you’re done…thankfully you’re not done. So the biggest difference playing in San Diego so long and then going to New York- what was the most shocking change or biggest difference that you had to deal with?
LT: I think probably the biggest thing is the different weather changes. You know, the funny thing is that I was so used to going out to practice and it looked like this everyday (a sunny, 70-degree day) in San Diego, then going out to practice in New York and it’s 19-degrees and you’re freezing! So mentally, more than anything, that’s what you have to prepare for. And also, there was a different style of football (in New York). Rex Ryan…he believes in playing defense and running the football, being an all weather type of football team, where in San Diego we could get away with being more of an all-around team, throwing the ball all around the park more because we had the weather to do that. So I think that part of it was a bit of a change as well.
Jeff: So the biggest change going to play for a guy like Rex Ryan, who is fiery and loud , wearing every emotion on his sleeve…obviously you are enjoying playing for the Jets now.
LT: (Laughs) Yeah, I am. And, you know, I think its part of that motivating thing that Rex does for his players. And we all appreciate it because you want to see that passion out of your coach sometimes. Especially when you got to go to New England and play in a playoff game, you want to hear your coach say, “This week is about me (Rex Ryan) and Bill Belichick, and if I could go out there in the middle of the field and kick his butt I would.” As a player, you’re going to back him up! So I really enjoy that part of it, playing for Rex because he’s a great coach. But not only that; the other coaches echo him. There’s something about that vibe and that atmosphere that our coaches give off to us, and a lot of times I think that’s the reason that we play the way that we do. To be able to go into the tough places and win games.
Jeff: I think a lot of people acted shocked when the Jets were winning playoff games, but when you see a Rex Ryan team, it plays with passion, it’s not going to quit…
LT: And they did it the year before I got there, it was the same thing. That’s part of who Rex is, that’s the way that he builds his team.
Jeff: I noticed on your calves, one calf has the Chargers, on the other calf it has the Jets (referring to the tattoos that LT sports on either calf representing the two NFL teams on which he has played). You don’t have any more calves…
LT: (Laughs) No, I sure don’t.
Jeff: So do you see the Jets as the final destination for LT, or how do you see it working out long-term?
LT: I would hope so, but at the same time, if I’m not really done playing, if I don’t have all the football out of my system, then I’ll just have to find room for another tattoo (for another team logo), and that’s just the way it is. You know I would hope (the Jets are the final destination), because I really like our coaching staff and I really like the players, and I think there is a role on that team for me.
Jeff: How do you see your role going into next season?
LT: As the NFL evolves into more of a passing game, I would love to be more of a passing game player, coming out of the backfield running routes on people. I’ve been the guy carrying the ball 300-something times and also catching the ball, but now I want to be the guy coming out of the backfield, being that 3rd-down guy to really dominate and keep the chains moving.
Jeff: I can’t think of a better 3rd-down guy.
LT: That’s my plan, I hope it all works out like that.
Jeff: So do you make it San Diego much anymore?
LT: Yeah, I make it two or three times a year. I have different events that I still do. I’m still teamed up with PPH hospital, so I make it out about three times a year.
Jeff: Last question- LaTorsha and Daylen- congratulations on Daylen’s first birthday coming up soon by the way. How is everyone doing? Are they in New York most of the time now or are they mostly settled in Texas now?
LT: We stay together- family is very important to me so we stay together. They’re doing well, and Daylen is getting ready to turn one. And we are expecting again, a little girl in September.
Jeff: Congratulations man! That’s awesome! LT, thanks for the time today!
LT- You too, it was a pleasure meeting you.
These were some great comments by LT, who left us to read between the lines on a few issues. First, as many Chargers fans already believe, players love playing for a confident, passionate coach. I didn’t expect LT to say anything negative about his current or previous teams, but I could really hear the passion in his voice when discussing the coaches and teammates with whom he currently works. It’s a different attitude then we hear from Chargers players.
It was also interesting to hear LT discuss his football future. He has made it well known that he is now willing to accept a secondary role with the Jets, although that was the plan last year and he ended up leading the team in rushing with 914-yards. It would not surprise me at all to see LT match Shonn Green carry for carry and yard for yard in 2011.
Also, LT does not seem ready to quit. He has reached a time in his career when he will continuously be asked if he is playing his last season in the NFL, but I get the sense that he has no plans to hang-up his cleats this season, next season, or for the foreseeable future. He is currently sixth on the all-time rushing list, and is poised to move ahead of Jerome Bettis and, possibly, former Jet Curtis Martin this season. He has fallen off a pace that could seriously challenge Smith as the all-time rushing leader, but another 3,400 yards would put him second place. That’s still not likely, but definitely not impossible, barring a serious injury.
I know that there are still a lot of Chargers fans pulling for LT. What are you thoughts regarding LT’s comments about his coaching staff and about his future in the NFL?
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