New York Jets: LaDainian Tomlinson talks Sun Bowl and Mission Tiger charity work
By Justin Fried
NFL legend and former New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson recently sat down with us to discuss the 2019 Sun Bowl and his partnership with Mission Tiger.
The holiday season is upon us and as cliché as it may sound, this is a time for giving. And that’s something that NFL legend and former San Diego Chargers and New York Jets running back LaDainian Tomlinson took to heart this week.
Tomlinson traveled across the streets of El Paso on Thursday giving out much-needed sports equipment to middle school students across the city.
This was part of a greater program known as Mission Tiger that seeks to give middle school children around the country access to sports.
Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes teamed up with the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation and gave a Sports Matter grant to every public middle school athletic department in El Paso. The donation reached a total of $500,000 when all was set and done.
The newly-renamed Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl will be held on December 31st in El Paso and with Kellogg’s officially sponsoring the bowl, they wanted to realign the game with its inaugural mission back in 1935 which was to benefit underprivileged children.
Mission Tiger called on Tomlinson — an NFL Hall of Famer, Sun Bowl alum, and Texas native — to help them with this massive undertaking.
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Tomlinson is one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game of football. The 2006 NFL MVP is currently seventh on the all-time rushing list and is one of the few players to have been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame and Pro Football Hall of Fame.
And of course, apart from his time with the Chargers, Tomlinson spent two years with the Jets helping them reach the AFC Championship Game during the 2010 season.
We sat down with Tomlinson to talk to him about his partnership with Mission Tiger, his experience in the Sun Bowl, and his time with the Jets.
Special thanks to Kellogg’s, Mission Tiger, the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation, and L.T. for making this possible!
JF: You happen to be an alumnus of the Sun Bowl yourself having played in the game back in 1998. And that game was pretty historic in that your school, TCU, won its first bowl game in 41 years. What did that moment mean for you and the program as a whole?
LT: It was a huge moment for our program and our university to kind of put us back on the map. If you remember, before that we were a part of the Southwest Conference and everything was going good in the ’90s — we won a Southwest Conference championship one year. But then shortly after things took a turn and that game put us back on the map. It told everyone that we could compete and play with a national power like USC and so it was a big moment for us.
JF: You’ve played sports pretty much your whole life, you started at a very young age. How cool is it to not only be able to help provide those same opportunities to young athletes, but to also do so for the kids in El Paso in your home state of Texas?
LT: This is important but also so unique to be an alumnus of the Sun Bowl, which is now called Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. And to be back here, it’s really full circle when I think about it because when I was here the first time I actually went around to middle schools in the area to talk to them as part of the community outreach program that we did back in college. It’s part of the things you do when you’re in a bowl game, you get out in the community and interact with kids. And so now, [I have the opportunity] to join forces with Mission Tiger and the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation to announce that the public middle schools here in El Paso will be able to benefit from this Sports Matter grant. And if you don’t know, there are 27,000 middle school kids here in El Paso so that’s a lot of help for these kids.
JF: So, of course, I’m speaking on the behalf of Jets fans here and you obviously played a couple of seasons in the green and white. What was your favorite moment with the New York Jets? What sticks out the most?
LT: Beating the Patriots in the second round of the playoffs in Foxborough. That was a huge moment for the organization and even for me personally. It was a redemption game for me because the last time that I had played there in the playoffs, I couldn’t finish the game because I hurt my knee. And so going back there to face that team, winning that night, that was pretty special.
JF: And I think I got to ask you, I’m not sure if you have a dog in the fight but who do you have winning this year’s Sun Bowl? Arizona State or Florida State?
LT: I’m a big Herm Edwards fan, I love Herm. I obviously competed against him for a number of years when he was with the Chiefs. But also just getting to know Herm on a personal level and meeting him at different events, he’s just an outstanding individual. He always gets the best out of his kids and so I’m pulling for him, I think Arizona State wins.
JF: Lastly, do you have any advice for the young athletes out there?
LT: I just think it all starts with your dreams. I don’t think anything could be accomplished if you don’t dream it to happen for you. And then with those dreams, you got to set every day goals and then long-term goals of how you’re going to accomplish those dreams. The other thing is never accepting no for an answer. Never believing the outside noise, whether people tell you how good you are or how bad you are. I think when you’re on a mission to do something special, you can’t listen to any of it. Sometimes when we hear the great things that people say about us it goes to our head, we get caught up in all the great things that people say and we forget about the things that we need to work on. And vice versa. If you listen to too much of the negative stuff, then you forget how good you are and how good you can be. Those are the things that I would tell a young athlete.
If you would like to learn more about Mission Tiger and their goal you could visit their website at MissionTiger.com. Special thanks again to Mission Tiger, the DICK’s Sporting Goods Foundation, and L.T. for taking the time to do this interview.
And with the holiday season in full swing, let this inspire you to give more and take less during this wonderful time of the year.