With two NFL teams, plus UCLA and USC, Los Angeles football fans can look forward to a packed season on the field and TV. The Chargers, who have made the move up from San Diego, have enlisted their Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson to be one of the faces of the franchise in the crowded L.A. market.
For more than a decade, Tomlinson and his wife, LaTorsha, have worked with local communities in San Diego and Ft. Worth, Texas, (he’s a native Texan) through Tomlinson’s Touching Lives Foundation to help high school students realize college dreams, feed the hungry and raise money for other programs and initiatives. The foundation’s goal is also the motto, says the football great: “To enhance the lives of deserving families by engaging in programs to promote education, social and cultural awareness, and positive self-esteem.”
And he usually brings his famous gridiron friends with him.
“If the kids can see it, they can envision it. I believe in the model of seeing is believing,” says Tomlinson. “I was certainly one of those kids,” says the TCU graduate, noting that he when he was 12 he met former Dallas Cowboy Emmitt Smith “and I started believing in dreams.”
For one of his programs, he and his team work to bring different groups of kids to Chargers home games, take them to dinner and spend time with them.
For the L.A. area, Tomlinson is meeting with potential partners and organizations to jump-start local programs. “The main thing is to attack fitness in this community. Fitness. Family. Football,” he says, adding that family is No. 1, and if the kids get proper information, they can also influence the parents’ behavior in eating healthy and getting exercise.
Tomlinson’s foundation will continue with its Thanksgiving meals. “That’s been a part of the foundation since 2003,” he says. “Not just turkey, but everything that entails a Thanksgiving dinner! That’s another program we hope to bring to Los Angeles. We’ve had great sponsors in Walmart and Albertsons. L.A. offers us more opportunity.”
The Chargers will play at the Stub Hub Center in Carson. “Where we play our games is fairly centrally located and our reach can be bigger,” Tomlinson says. He’s excited about engaging the Chargers in his efforts, and with stars like Phillip Rivers, Joey Bosa and Keenan Allen, he’s got some strong firepower for his foundation’s efforts.
The Chargers’ brand-building campaign, Fight for L.A., incorporates fan outreach and philanthropic initiatives. Tomlinson and his foundation are a huge part of the Chargers’ L.A. outreach. Tomlinson notes that they are role models in the community. “With Anthony Lynn, we have a very enthusiastic, smart and engaging head coach. He’s the type of coach we want in the community. His experience as a player and coach can help us in so many ways,” says Tomlinson.
And with the Chargers the trendy pick to win the NFC West, it looks to be a busy season for Tomlinson.