One Legend Meets Another Legend

By Steve Doerschuk
Updated: December 7, 2009

CLEVELAND — LaDainian Tomlinson was showered and dressed, but he wasn’t ready for this.

His eyes lit up when he looked to the other end of the San Diego Chargers’ locker room. Walking in the door was Jim Brown. It’s one thing to break a legend’s record. It’s another to look the legend in the eye half an hour later.

Earlier this year, Brown said he got a kick out of being named the greatest player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame by a Repository panel.

On Sunday, Tomlinson clearly got a kick out of moving past Brown on the all-time rushing list. He ran for 64 yards, giving him 12,321 in his nine-year career. He passed Brown with an 11-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Brown rushed for 12,312 yards in his career, which he chose to end abruptly in 1966 after nine seasons with the Browns. Retiring young and playing in shorter seasons, 12 and later 14 games, made Brown’s assorted records breakable.

Tomlinson sounded a bit nervous as he approached Brown and shook his hand.

“I want to tell you that I appreciate you giving a young kid and giving a young man something to strive for,” he said. “I look up to you. I want to be like you.”

Brown was gratified by Tomlinson’s humility.

“I’ll have to sign you up,” Brown said, drawing a smile from Tomlinson.

Brown told Tomlinson he wanted to shake his hand away from the glare of cameras, but a few writers were listening in.

“You’re a fantastic player and a helluva person,” Brown said to Tomlinson, who was born 14 years after Brown’s final season, 1965. “I wanted to come down and see you myself, one on one.

“Keep up the good work. This might be the year.”

Tomlinson smile again, saying, “I hope so. I hope this is the year.”

Beating the Browns gave San Diego its seventh straight win and a 9-3 record.

Brown reached the NFL Championship Game, his era’s equivalent of the Super Bowl, three times, losing in 1957 and 1965 and winning in 1964.

Tomlinson has gone to the postseason in four of the past five seasons, but he has never gotten past the AFC Championship Game.

Tomlinson’s head coach, Norv Turner, has coached on teams whose star running backs were Eric Dickerson, Emmitt Smith and Marcus Allen.

Turner declined to rank Tomlinson in that group, but he said, “L.T.

just passed Jim Brown. I think that says it all in a nutshell.”

Tomlinson is 30, the age Brown would have been had he returned for Cleveland’s 1966 season.

He is obviously slowing down, having rushed for 561 yards at 3.3 per carry in 2009, but he is still a scoring machine. His third-quarter touchdown was his ninth of the season.

The Browns have rushed for three touchdowns this year, all by quarterbacks.

Meanwhile, Brown is an adviser to Browns owner Randy Lerner. Tomlinson asked Brown, who has a home in Los Angeles, if he is headed to the west coast any time soon.

Brown said he will be in Ohio until Thursday before flying out. One reason he will stay in Ohio is to huddle with Lerner about where the team stands in the wake of Sunday’s 30-23 loss.