LaDainian Tomlinson gives students the milk toast

Los Angeles Chargers players Desmond King (20), Austin Ekeler (30, NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson and others share a milk toast at Jefferson Elementary School in Inglewood, California. The Chargers and Real California Milk made a donation of $10,000 to the Lennox School District on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

Inglewood-Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson has a few tips for students: Listen to your parents, pay attention to what your teachers are telling you. They might want to eat healthy as well. These are the hidden tidbits that Tomlinson shared with students at Jefferson Elementary School recently as he spoke about his aspirations to make it to the National Football League.

Before he could put in the work on the football field, Tomlinson reminded students who were present during a formal ceremony at the school in which the Los Angeles Chargers and Real California Milk partnered to donate $10,000 to the Lennox School District, that he had to do what was required of him away from the gridiron.

That included dealing with life’s many tests outside of the classroom. Many of the students within the Lennox School District share a hardship commonality with Tomlinson. Tomlinson was born in tiny Rosebud, a small Texas town with a population of just 1,377 people as of 2016. Like the 97 percent of the students in the Lennox School District who live in poverty, Tomlinson grew up with his own set of challenges.

He overcame them to become the public figure he is today. If they do what they’re supposed to do, they’ll be able to achieve what they aspire to become as well, Tomlinson said.

NFL Hall of Fame running back LaDainianTomlinson, now serving as special assistant to Los Angeles Chargers owner Dean Spanos, speaks to students at Jefferson Elementary School about good eating habits. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“You know, I had a dream from the time that I was your age of playing in the National Football League, making it to play football,” Tomlinson said. “But you know, the one thing I realized, even at your age, that I had to do a few things if I was going to make it. First thing, I had to make sure I made good grades and I stayed in school and I listened to my parents, and I listened to my teachers. That was the first thing that I had to do, because if I didn’t make the grades, if I didn’t listen to my teachers, or my parents, I wouldn’t have been able to play football.

“The second thing I realized is that I had to eat healthy, because I wanted to grow up and be big and strong. And if you seen those guys on TV, and how big they are…you can’t survive if you’re not big and strong. So, the only way we can become big and strong and fast and have a lot of energy is to eat right; fruit, vegetables, lean meats-chicken, fish-those are the things you guys should start thinking about eating. That’s what’s going to fuel you all day.”

Tomlinson produced 13,684 rushing yards and had 145 touchdowns on the ground during his stellar NFL career. Now, instead of making a dash towards the endzone, Tomlinson’s mission these days is being the face of the Chargers community outreach efforts as special assistant to team owner Dean Spanos. Tomlinson gave students a brief pep talk about the importance of incorporating milk into their health food intake. But he added a little caveat to his milk pep talk.

Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler (30) takes a question from a student at Jefferson Elementary School in Inglewood, California. Ekeler and teammate Desmond King took part in a ceremony at the school where the Chargers and Real California Milk presented a check of $10,000 to the Lennox School District on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

“Drinking milk builds strong bones,” Tomlinson said. “It really does. From the time I can remember from being a kid, I also used to wake up in the morning with my cereal. I was a Cinnamon Toast Crunch type of guy…So I’d get that big bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, pour all that milk on there, and I’m going to drink the milk at the end because it’s good. It’s a little sweet at that time. It has the cinnamon in there. You guys should try that sometime. But even now, I still enjoy drinking milk. But I gotta confess: I gotta have my cookies with my milk.”

Tomlinson had backup when he made his appearance at Jefferson Elementary School. Chargers rookies Desmond King and Austin Ekeler took time during their day off to field questions from students, play pass-and-catch and participate in other drills associated with the Fuel Up to Play60 activities. Ekeler says being part of the Chargers community events is something he really enjoys.

“The community events we do with the youth is definitely my favorite to come out here,” Ekeler said. “It’s really special to them. I didn’t have anything like that when I was a kid growing up. If I would have, it definitely would have inspired me. I’m out here giving back to these youths. They just need someone to look up to or something like that, something to say, ‘wow,’ someone actually made it that I can see, touch and talk to.”

Desmond King (20) listens intently to a student’s question during a ceremony in which the Los Angeles Chargers and Real California Milk donated $10,000 to the Lennox School District in Inglewood, California. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline

The money donated by the Chargers and Real California Milk is to promote wellness to students through physical activities and solid eating habits. Inglewood Mayor James T. Butts, Jennifer Giambroni of the California Milk Advisory Board and Lennox School District Superintendent Kent Taylor attended the event.

“This money will certainly go a long way of providing opportunities for them, to understand their health, their wellness, and how milk plays a part of that,” Lennox School District Superintendent Kent Taylor. “The Los Angeles Chargers, what they do, and the winning, and how they center on being healthy, utilizing that as a sport…is a good tie-in for a school district, for the Lennox School District.”

Selected students from Jefferson Elementary School had the privilege to sit in on the event, which Taylor called an “awesome opportunity.”

“This is a wonderful event for us today, not only the L.A. Chargers supporting the California Milk Advisory Board, the $10,000 will be used for our students to take some significant field trips,” Taylor said. “Growing up in the inner city, L.A. area, our kids have never seen where milk really comes from. So, we’d like to take them out to some of the farms where they can actually see the cows, see where the milk really comes from. Our kids appreciate the milk. It’s good for their bones and for their nutrition. To actually see where it’s actually produced is a wonderful thing. It’s a connection to kids.”

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1138 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.

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