Although I am not a major sports fan in the least, I do enjoy watching NFL football when it's in season. I'm a pretty casual fan, though. I couldn't tell you much about all of the statistics and such, who's facing which team in any given week (TV listings notwithstanding), and I can't say that there's any one team that I specifically root for. Some I like better than others, but that's about it.
However, this past season, it would have been impossible NOT to take note of LaDainian Tomlinson. This running back for the San Diego Chargers broke quite a few records this past season, and he seemed to do so with relative ease. He had a distinct talent for running the football and getting past the defense with an astounding level of speed and agility, frequently right into the endzone. Even though the defense KNEW what he was capable of, knowing this and being able to do a whole lot about it were two entirely different things.
Tomlinson, frequently called "LT", set several records during 2006 by scoring a league-leading 31 touchdowns and 186 points. He received additional honors by winning the NFL's Most Valuable Player Award and the Associated Press' Offensive Player of the Year Award.
The San Diego Chargers selected Tomlinson in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft, as the fifth overall pick. Tomlinson immediately became the starting running back with the Chargers and has started all but one game since. He has achieved immediate success in the NFL, rushing for over 1,200 yards and making over 50 receptions in each of his six seasons. He has also proven to be effective as a passer, having completed seven career passes, six of them for touchdowns.
In 2003, he became the first player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards and record 100 receptions in the same season. He also reached his 50th career touchdown in his 4th season (60th game) and was elected to the Pro Bowl team in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006.
On October 16, 2005, in the Chargers' victory over the Oakland Raiders, LaDainian Tomlinson became the 7th player in NFL history to run, catch, and throw for a touchdown in the same game. Tomlinson finished the season with 1,462 rushing yards, 370 receiving yards, and a career high 20 touchdowns (18 rushing, 2 receiving). In 2005 he was nominated for the FedEx Ground Player of the Year Award.
In the 2006 season, he set an NFL record by scoring 19 touchdowns in a span of 6 games, including a franchise record 4 touchdowns in games against the San Francisco 49ers, Cincinnati Bengals and the Denver Broncos. He is the first to score three TDs in three straight games, and the first to have three games of four or more TDs in one season. He became the fastest player ever to score 100 touchdowns. On November 19, 2006, Tomlinson accomplished the milestone in 89 games with 102, beating the previous record of 93 games held by Jim Brown and Emmitt Smith. On December 3, Tomlinson became only the second running back (Eric Dickerson was the other) to rush for at least 1,200 yards in his first six NFL seasons.
On January 4, 2007, Tomlinson was awarded with the NFL AP Most Valuable Player Award for his record-breaking season. He was the runaway winner, receiving 44 of the 50 votes from a panel a nationwide sportswriters and broadcasters who cover the NFL.
Obviously the man is an outstanding football player. He was also part of Series II of Gracelyn's NFL RePlays figures. You can guess how hard it would be to find this particular figure, even though this particular series was not lacking for some star power, including Eli Manning, Jerome Bettis, and others that, honestly, if I'VE heard of them, they must have SOME significance in the game.
Gracelyn is not technically the primary maker of sports figure memorabilia. That distinction would, I am forced to admit, have to go to McFarlane Toys. However, as one might expect, McFarlane has a tendency to produce these pre-posed, grass-stained, dirt-smeared plastic near- statues. For those of us that are more interested in action figures, we're not going to find it here.
Gracelyn, on the other hand, seems to understand the term "action figure" a good bit better. Their NFL RePlays figures are not pre-posed, they're not grass-stained and dirt-smeared, they're solidly made, very nicely detailed, and best of all -- decently articulated.
LaDainian Tomlinson stands about 5" in height. The figure is not the least bit pre-posed. He is articulated at the head, arms, upper swivel arms, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, knees, and ankles. About the only curious aspect about these RePlays figures is that you can't remove the helmet, so you're not really going to get that good a look at the face of the individual. Then again, how often do you get that good a look at the face of the individual when he's charging down the field, anyway?
The detail is superb. The laces on the trousers, the mesh on the shirt, the face guard on the helmet, have all been carefully and neatly sculpted. The player's name, number, and team insignia have all been very well printed on the figure's uniform. And in astounding detail. There are some tiny little NFL logos on the shirt, pants, and gloves that could give you eyestrain even if you use a magnifying glass to see them. There's a football attached to Tomlinson's right hand that has the NFL and Wilson (official manufacturer of NFL footballs) sculpted into it.
About the only thing that threw me off a bit about the Tomlinson figure was the uniform colors. The San Diego Chargers traditionally wear a dark blue uniform with a dark blue helmet that has the white lightning bolt that is their logo emblazoned on it. So why was the LaDainian Tomlinson figure dressed in a light blue shirt with a white helmet, that had not only a yellow lightning bolt on it, but his player number "21", as well?
Like I said, I am no NFL expert. So I asked around a bit. This light blue uniform is a "throwback" uniform that is reminiscent of the original uniform colors of the San Diego Chargers from years ago, and apparently they do wear them for certain special occasions. As one explained, "That's the uniforms they played in when they started out as the Los Angeles Chargers in the AFL in the early '60's. In the '70's they changed the light blue to navy, and then in the '90's took out most of the yellow." One of the fine folks who responded even provided a picture of a trading card showing Tomlinson in this uniform.
The overall quality of the figure is superb, I should say. One might expect a company, and no disrespect towards Gracelyn, but let's face it, they're not Hasbro or Mattel, so one might expect a smaller company to turn out cheaper product. That is not the case here whatsoever. The Tomlinson figure, and for that matter the Braylon Edwards figure I picked up a while back, are solidly made, well-assembled, and are made from very good quality materials. The paint work is neatly applied, and as I said, so are the numbers, names, and insignias. Any company would be pleased to be able to turn out product of this caliber.
Tomlinson comes with a display base, which he doesn't really need since the figure stands perfectly fine on its own, although I suppose if you want to display him in a running pose, then the base would be helpful. But what's funny about the base is that while it's molded like most of the ones I've seen to resemble a grassy patch of football field, Tomlinson's has been painted with a white yard marker and the out of bounds sideline. This is a nice little nod to Tomlinson's distinct ability to run down the field so close to the out of bounds line, but never quite crossing it, that it's a wonder he hasn't given half the NFL referees and other assorted officials trying to watch and monitor the game a group case of nervous jitters.
The only other accessory Tomlinson comes with is a tiny little car. It looks like a dune buggy with a giant football helmet on it. It's about 1-1/2" long, and it's painted flat silver. Braylon Edwards comes with one of these, too. Its wheels roll, but I'm honestly not certain as to its purpose. It's cute enough, though.
In my opinion, this NFL RePlays line doesn't get nearly enough attention or respect. You'll hardly see it mentioned in the Sports section of certain toy magazines that cover such product. It seems to be a Wal-Mart exclusive. Whether that was deliberate on Wal-Mart's part or if other stores just didn't want it for some reason I don't know. If it's the latter case, then that's a sincere shame. There is, according to an advertisement I've seen, a Series III in the works, and I hope it comes out. Because honestly, these are the finest football action figures I've ever seen.
And certainly LaDainian Tomlinson is a worthy entry in the collection!
If you can find him at this point, he certainly has my definite recommendation,
as do any of the others in this NFL RePlays line!