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A Tribute to LaDainian Tomlinson

“A Tribute to LaDainian Tomlinson”
By Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS

Most people don’t know that I was a sports massage therapist for the San Diego Chargers in years 2002 & 2003. I would go down to the facility every Monday after their Sunday games and work on the guys.

And on the last week of the 2002 season, a player came up to me (one that I had not yet worked with) and said, “I hear you do something called ‘Functional Fitness.’ I’m looking to take my game to the next level and I would love to see if you could help me out.”

I said, “Sure, I would love the opportunity to help you. What’s your name?”

And he said, “LaDainian Tomlinson.”

And my mouth about dropped.

LaDainian Tomlinson was the 5th overall pick in the 2001 Draft and was deemed a savior for the Chargers’ organization. Between him, Drew Brees (Drew was drafted with the first pick in the 2nd round of the same year), and Junior Seau, they were deemed the nucleus of what would be a Chargers’ turnaround.

And LT called me literally one day after the 2002 season ended to start training. He said, “Todd, I want to get started. I want to be one of the best to ever play the game and I’m willing to do what it takes training-wise to get there. I’m ready. Can we start tomorrow?”

Of course I agreed. So just 2 days after his rookie season was over, LT already started training for the 2003 season. And so it began.

When I got off the phone initially, I was like, “Oh shoot…how am I going to take this already GREAT running back and make him better?” After all, he was going to be the first NFL athlete I trained at my 2-year old studio at the time, Fitness Quest 10. Nothing like easing into it!

But that first session proved to be the first of what ended up being an extremely  special, 7-year relationship where I trained him to help him become one of the best running backs in the world.

LT earned many accolades in his career. MVP of the NFL in 2006. NFL Man of the Year in 2006. 5th in NFL history in career rushing yards (13,684), second in career rushing touchdowns (145), and third in career total touchdowns (162).

Rushing titles. Many big wins. Even some tough losses. And thousands of training sessions. And while all of them were special, the one thing I remember about each of them was that he was NEVER late for a session and he NEVER cancelled a session. EVER.


Fast-forward 13 years from when I first started working with LaDainian and he just got inducted into the San Diego Breitbard Sports Hall of Fame this past Monday (February 23rd, 2015) at the Town & Country Hotel. LaDainian has already been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. And he will undoubtedly be enshrined in Canton at the NFL Hall of Fame on the first-ballot in just 2 years.

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TD and LaDainian Tomlinson at the
San Diego Hall of Fame Induction

So why do I share this with you today?

3 reasons:

1. Every now and then, you are blessed with a person in your life or career that is extremely rare and special. And that puts you on the map. And is a “once-in-a-lifetime” client (fortunately, I’ve had the opportunity to have a couple of those and they were both teammates of LaDainian’s and HE was responsible for bringing them in).

2. LT did something special on Monday before he was inducted into the San Diego Hall of Fame. He surprised me and came in to train with my 9:30 am Pro Athlete group. I about welled up with tears seeing him. And I was so excited to work with him one more time. He gave his old teammate Darren Sproles (who is also one of the “special” ones I was alluding to above) a big hug, had a warm welcome for the others in the group, and then it was go time.

And it was just like old times. LT skipped, hopped, ran through ladders, lifted weights…and of course, we played some old-school Rocky. We used to listen to that darned Rocky IV sound-track over & over.

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The boys working out at FQ10.
From L-R: Jeff Guenzburger, Darren Sproles, Dominique Jones, LaDainian Tomlinson, Todd Durkin, Chris Young, and Donald Brown

3. Because LT is a special athlete and person. His production was incredible. He missed zero starts in 9 years (a testament to his discipline, dedication, and commitment to not only his training but on his recovery & soft-tissue work).

He was and is committed to the San Diego community. He and his wife LaTorsha remain very active in many philanthropic efforts in San Diego and through his Tomlinson Touching Lives Foundation, they have positively impacted thousands of people in San Diego and beyond.

And finally, LaDainian is as kind, caring, and genuine person there is. He truly is one of the BEST there ever was…and EVER will be.

During the induction ceremony, LaDainian shared his gratitude for many people and even talked about our countless hours of training. Pretty honored and humbled to be acknowledged and recognized by him. But then again, his respect and humility never surprises me.

My friends, I simply wanted to step back in memory lane today. LaDainian is someone who truly helped put me on the map and helped me to live my life’s purpose. We all need those people in our lives that connect the dots. And while I never knew that a massage gig with the Chargers in 2002 would lead to this, I sure am grateful that I had the opportunity to work with “Dain” and be just a small part of his illustrious career.

Keep striving for excellence, dreaming BIG, and creating IMPACT in all you do!

Much love!


Todd Durkin, MA, CSCS, is an internationally-recognized performance trainer, bodyworker, speaker, author, and owner of award-winning gym Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA (one of the Top 10 Gyms in the U.S.). His outstanding team of 38 professionals deliver extraordinary service in personal training, sports performance training, massage/bodywork, Pilates, yoga, physical therapy and chiropractic. Todd is the Lead Training Advisor for Under Armour, regular contributor to Men’s Health, and author of The IMPACT! Body Plan.

Todd is also the President/CEO of Todd Durkin Enterprises where he conducts motivational keynotes/presentations, educational & leadership workshops, he operates a Mastermind Group for dedicated fitness entrepreneurs, and he presents internationally on health, fitness, peak performance, and success in life.

You can follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @ToddDurkin, his FB Fan page atToddDurkinFQ10, or sign up for his monthly motivational newsletter You can get more information on his facility or

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