When former Pro Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson announced his retirement from the National Football League last week, it signaled the end of a great Hall of Fame career. Tomlinson was selected with the fifth pick of the 2001 NFL Draft out of TCU by the San Diego Chargers and was a major reason why the team was so successful during his tenure. One bit of information that is often overlooked is that the career on the West Coast may not have been possible if the Atlanta Falcons didn't trade with the Chargers to move up to the top spot to select Michael Vick.
Had the Falcons not felt the need to select Vick, they could have gotten a star without all the drama that Vick brought. If Tomlinson found himself in a Falcons jersey that day, there is no guarantee that he would have found the same success that he did in San Diego, but he would have been a great asset at the position for the Falcons. The Falcons have had some talented rushers, but none have been as consistent as Tomlinson was for San Diego.
During the time Tomlinson spent with the Chargers (2001-09), the Falcons saw four different rushers lead the team in yards. In his nine seasons, Tomlinson totaled 12,490 yards on 2,880 carries with 138 scores, while the Falcons top rushers combined for just 9,418 yards on 2,276 rushes and 70 touchdowns.
The Falcons move to get Vick still wasn't a terrible call, as the team was in desperate need of another quarterback. They were using Chris Chandler, who despite leading the team to a Super Bowl in 1998 was on the last legs of his career. With Vick, they were getting a new leader and a new face for the organization, which is something the franchise hadn't seen in years.
If the Falcons drafted Tomlinson with the fifth pick that year instead of drafting Vick with the first pick, who knows what would have happened with either player. Could Vick have been saved from the dog fighting problems that wreaked havoc on his career? Could Tomlinson have still had as much success with Atlanta? Those are both questions we will never know the answer to, but it makes me wonder what could have been if LT had made his way to Atlanta.
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Hobson Lopes is a fan of the Atlanta Falcons, thanks to Deion Sanders and can be followed on Twitter @HobsonLopes.
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