SAN DIEGO- San Diego Chargers legends don’t die. They multiply. The memories are still there. That platform they used to bolster their names in the spotlight is still around. Some are gone. Thankfully, some are still here. They may be a bit gray around the temple these days.
But there they were. Old gladiators of the past basking in the glory of their heyday during halftime of the San Diego Chargers-Tennessee Titans football game played at Qualcomm Stadium. Dan Fouts. Charlie Joiner. Kellen Winslow. Ron Mix. Wes Chandler. Leslie O’Neal. LaDainian Tomlinson. Leslie “Speedy” Duncan.
There are others. The list is too long to count. The glory of individual greatness is too steep in tradition to forget.
“These men represent the very finest football players in the history of the National Football League. We all have our favorites and or favorite memories and stories that have been passed down through generations of all the incredible, suspenseful and amazing plays made by these guys,” Fouts said during the halftime ceremony with some of the former gridiron stars present on the field with him.
“When you think about the days of the AFL and Sid Gillman’s Chargers…Bambi (Lance Alworth), The Ghost (Garry Garrison), (Keith) Lincoln and (Paul) Lowe, (Ron) Mix and Ernie Ladd, those wonderful teams,” Fouts added. “And I was lucky to have played for the great Don Coryell in the offense called Air Coryell.”
It was Don Coryell who transitioned the NFL’s plodding, raging bull game into an aerial ballerina show with his futuristic “Air Coryell” passing offense.
The NFL Hall of Fame is lined up Chargers greatness, starting with Fouts, Joiner, Winslow, Sid Luckman, defensive end Fred Dean, wide receiver Lance Alworth, quarterback John Hadl and the great Junior Seau. Tomlinson’s turn to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio, is coming up soon.
“You guys accepted me as your very own from Day 1,”Tomlinson told the Qualcomm Stadium crowd. “But think about the generation of Chargers that have played this wonderful game and been here for you to cheer on, to buy their jerseys…55 years the San Diego Chargers have been in this community.”
During his emotional speech, Tomlinson spoke passionately about Seau, his former teammate. Seau passed away in 2012 due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound. It was later discovered that Seau suffered from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).
“When I think of (No.) 55, I think about one guy that’s looking down,” Tomlinson said.
Chargers greats need not to have a pass into the NFL Hall of Fame to be considered of the top players to put on one of those lightning bolts uniforms. For years, Gary “Big Hands” Johnson wrecked chaos and confusion among opposing offenses.
Chargers fans could always count on placekicker Rolf Benirschke to come through in the clutch with a timely field goal or two.
And when you talk about two, the names of guards Doug Wilkerson and Ed White come up consistently when you talk about the “Air Coryell” era as they were primarily the ones protecting Fouts and blasting holes for running back Chuck Muncie and friends.
The best of the best showed up to be honored during the team’s recognition of Chargers Hall of Fame players during the franchise’s annual salute to Chargers alumni.