Chargers RB Ladainian Tomlinson celebrating his 30th birthday Tuesday, insists he can still dunk a basketball, outrun DBs and lead the league in rushing.
Last season, for the first time in his career, Tomlinson’s body didn’t let him play. Soon after the 2008 season ended, Tomlinson called Emmitt Smith.
Smith gave Tomlinson advice about playing at the age of 30, the year NFL running backs’ numbers historically decline. Smith also gave Tomlinson the phone number of his physical therapist, whom Tomlinson has received treatment from in Las Colinas several times this off-season.
Smith had 5,789 of his 18,355 yards after he turned 30. Walter Payton rushed for 5,101 yards in his 30s. Curtis Martin was 31 in 2004 when he led the league in rushing with 1,697 yards.
Tomlinson believes it’s age over the beat down running backs endure.
"I still feel great," Tomlinson said. "That’s the one thing I’m eager to prove: When you turn 30, that doesn’t mean you can’t play anymore. … I think there are guys out there that defy the odds."
Tomlinson ranks 14th among the league’s all-time leading rushers with 11,760 yards — 6,595 behind Smith’s NFL record. Tomlinson has averaged 1,470 yards per season in his eight NFL seasons.
Tomlinson believes he can duplicate what Smith and Payton did in the "twilight" of their careers. In fact, he guarantees it.