Replacing a legend is one of the most daunting challenges in all of sports. This unenviable task becomes even more difficult when the player just so happens to be replacing his childhood hero. San Diego Chargers running back Ryan Mathews finds himself in exactly this position.
Mathews spent the majority of his youth in and around Bakersfield, California. During this time, a man named LaDainian Tomlinson was amassing his Hall of Fame career, 230 miles to the south. As a result, Mathews became a Chargers fan and an even bigger LT fan. His admiration for Tomlinson was on full display during his days at Fresno State, when the all-WAC runner wore number 21, in honor of his football inspiration.
In need of an immediate replacement, one month later, the Chargers drafted Mathews with the twelfth pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. In the blink of an eye, the man who grew up emulating the San Diego great was now the organization’s choice to carry on his legacy.
After posting decent, but unspectacular stats during his rookie season, Mathews came back to run for nearly 1,100 yards in 2011. Chargers coaches and fans hope that his season three growth will elevate him into one of the top RB’s in the NFL.
Monday, after the conclusion of San Diego’s afternoon training camp practice, Mathews stopped to sign autographs for a large gathering of Charger fans. This scene can be viewed per the above iFolloSports.com original video.
While he is not anywhere close to LT’s level of popularity, as of this moment, Mathews' standing with lovers of the Chargers continues to grow by each passing day.