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LaDainian Tomlinson Set to Retire with San Diego Chargers as Legend on and Off the Field

Yahoo Contributor Network

COMMENTARY | You can't spell class without L.T.

No player has done more for the San Diego Chargers' franchise in recent memory than LaDainian Tomlinson, who will announce his retirement on Monday, June 18, 2012.

Tomlinson will finish his career, albeit only ceremoniously, where it all began -- San Diego. He was taken with the No. 5 pick in the 2001 draft by the Chargers and immediately endeared himself to fans with his work ethic and humility, both qualities that would set him apart from his peers as he became the NFL's most marketable superstar.

He would go on to rewrite the Chargers' record books and find himself alongside other greats in the franchise's storied history. He left the Chargers as their all-time leader in rushing yards and total touchdowns. More importantly, he was a legitimate leader in every aspect.

If the Chargers had a Mount Rushmore, his face would be carved into granite somewhere among the San Diego area's many hills.

Tomlinson's legacy involves much more than on-field accomplishments, and he remains an integral part of the Greater San Diego community. His charitable work includes, but is not limited to, Tomlinson's Touching Lives Foundation, Camp L.T., and an annual fundraising golf tournament. In each of these endeavors, his love of people and desire to give back are easy to see.

But L.T. has never done any of it for the recognition. You don't need to look any further than his post-touchdown routine, a simple non-descript flip of the football, to find an example of how humble he is.

Some have made the case that any signature move following a touchdown should be seen as showboating. With Tomlinson, it was abundantly clear that he was about the business of helping his team win above all else. Recognition wasn't why he played the way he did.

His departure from San Diego was his chance to shout from the rooftops about how disrespectfully he'd been treated by the Chargers' front office, namely A.J. Smith. The general manager was adamant that he meant no disrespect in his ill-advised and poorly-timed comments, but his apology was disingenuous at best.

The only thing Tomlinson did in response was express his desire to continue to play the game he loved, which he did with the New York Jets.

He took the high road then, and he remains one of the classiest players ever to suit up in the NFL. At this early stage in his retirement, it's unknown exactly what he's going to do in the next phase of his career.

Wherever he goes, he will make it better -- much like he did at Chargers Park. One thing is certain: San Diego is a better sports city and community because of No. 21. He may never have won the Super Bowl ring he coveted, but Tomlinson is a champion in every sense of the word.

Michael C. Jones is a Yahoo! Featured Contributor in Sports and covers the San Diego Charges and the NFL. He has written for Southern California's Press-Enterprise and Examiner.com. Follow Michael on Twitter .

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