Coffee with LaTorsha Tomlinson

Posted: Dec.26, 2006, 1:41 pm EST
By Stacey Pressman
Special to NBCSports.com

SANTA MONICA, Calif. -- Anyone who's ever met LaDainian Tomlinson quickly understands the adjectives quiet, humble and gracious.

For all the accolades, awards and broken records, there's hardly any showmanship or even the slightest bit of swagger in his step. LaDainian Tomlinson is quite the contrast from flamboyant players such as Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens, who arguably can be placed in the diva camp of NFL personalities. Tomlinson is indeed the opposite.

In fact, after breaking the NFL single-season touchdown record, LT was perfectly content with going straight home with his wife, LaTorsha, to watch a movie that was due back at Blockbuster. According to his wife, "If he were the sole decision-maker of plans for the evening, that's probably what he would have chosen for himself."

Vladimir Cherry/WireImage.comLaDainian Tomlinson with his wife LaTorsha (left) as TCU retires his football jersey.
It was the outgoing and effervescent LaTorsha who convinced her husband of four years, that it would just be plain weird to not go out and celebrate. "I had to beg him, that night after he broke the record, I begged him to go out," she says. "It was an issue, he wanted to just hang out at home. I kept telling him, you broke the record, you can't go home and just watch SportsCenter and play with your dog. Your teammates are out, you need to go! It would be very weird if you just stayed home." So after much cajoling they headed to Shawne Merriman's party at On Broadway with teammates Randall Godfrey and his wife, and Antonio Gates and his girlfriend to celebrate the accomplishment.

But that was a rare moment and seeing LT out -- partying in a club is something that doesn't happen often.

In fact, LaTorsha admits, LaDainian is different from anyone she's ever met before. She too has a hard time understanding how someone who is so blessed with all of this talent, can be so humble, simple, and not the least bit cocky. "Sometimes I wonder if he even knows he's LaDainian Tomlinson," she says.

But that's always been LT. In those evening hours, when it's all quiet and the couple is brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed, LaTorsha admits to asking her husband straight up, "Don't you just want to jump up and down and yell with excitement!?" That question often elicits a furrowed brow and more often than not launches her husband into a litany of platitudes, which LaTorsha describes as "the speech."

"Oh, I get the speech all the time, she says. "It's usually something about 'keeping your eye on the prize, staying focused and not getting too loose because when you get too loose you lose focus." In fact, I hear the speech so often, I sometimes find myself tuning it out."

LaTorsha stopped by the local Starbucks in Poway, California, to talk to NBCSports.com about life with LaDainian. And just a little side note: Because LaDainian has jokingly described his wife as someone who is "outgoing and can talk to a tree," LT was moderately worried to leave his wife alone with a reporter. He was certain she'd divulge all of their business. But LaTorsha thinks people should know a little more about the man she's married to and what he is like off the field.

So, with that said ... onto their business.

Q: LaDainian and LaTorsha: What are the chances that a LaDainian ends up with a girl named LaTorsha?
A:
I don't know. I'm LT too … (she laughs) He jokes that it was criteria for his wife that her name had to start with an L. Afterall, his mom is Loreane, his brother is LaVar and his sister is Londria. Random that I was a La. My parents just happened to name me LaTorsha and he happened to be LaDainian, it's really funny though cause when people send us mail, instead of writing LaDainian and LaTorsha Tomlinson they just write LT2 and then our address. Actually, what's even funnier is that the girlfriend before me was LaKeisha.

Q: How did you meet?
A:
We met in college. He went to TCU obviously on an athletic scholarship and I was on an academic scholarship. I was a Bill Gates Millennium Scholar and I was there at TCU. I was actually tutoring a friend of LaDainian's, helping him with his English and his friend just said out of nowhere, 'Hey my friend likes you and wants your number.' I said, 'Okay, well you tell your friend that any real man would come and ask himself.' So his friend kind of put a bug in my ear and then a few weeks later I saw LaDainian at a Greek party on campus and he came up to me and talked to me. We exchanged numbers and we've been together ever since.

Q: Okay, so your husband is tearing up this league right now, breaking all sorts of records, What's it like for you to be with him through all of this?
A:
It's funny because this is the first year that I am actually so excited about everything that is happening, I mean you've seen him, he's very quiet, very reserved doesn't ever get excited about much. He kind of takes all of this with a grain of salt. I mean, after a huge game where he's broken records, he'll just come home and say, 'So do you want to watch a movie?' I'm sitting there saying, 'Hey, don't you want to jump up and down or do something crazy?" And he just looks at me and says, 'No, the movie we rented is due back at Blockbuster tomorrow, we probably should watch it." That's LaDainian. I think for him it has to marinate and soak in. I don't think its hit him yet. Once all of that is over maybe come April or May when he's just sitting around it will hit him.

Q: How else would you describe him?
A:
Very simple, he's still the same from Day One, very quiet, very humble. I've never met anyone like him. It's very strange, I don't know anyone who can have what he has: the talent, the fame and just being so blessed and kinda just still so simple and more into the simple things in life, like going to a movie, going to dinner, going to the putt-putt. He says things like, 'Yeah, I broke the record but the hoopla's over, we've got a game on Sunday.' I always describe him as someone who has a very old soul, he's only 27 but he's not a normal 27, he's not into parties and clubs and being part of the scene and being in the midst of everything going on. He likes to be at home -- in those same ol' shorts and that cut-off TCU T-shirt that he's had for seven years with the fabric deteriorating.

LaTorsha and LaDainian TomlinsonLaTorsha and LaDainian Tomlinson on their wedding day.
We are total opposites, I am a social butterfly. He tells people 'My wife can talk to a tree' because I am very much that way. I love people. I'm an extrovert and he's somewhat introverted. I think I am interesting to him because I am exactly what he is not. My degree is in clinical psychology and I love the study of humans. People are so interesting to me. LaDainian is very quiet and reserved, he doesn't really want to talk a lot. He's shy and doesn't know what to say all the time so we're very different in that aspect but in our relationship it works because we kind of balance each other out. Plus, he knows how to get me to shut up sometimes when I get going.

Q: And how is that?
A:
He pinches my knee under the table.

I bring more out of him in terms of personality and opening up to people. Actually, he was joking about me doing this interview with you, saying that everyone's now going to know our personal business because I'm way too candid.

Q: Why did you do this interview?
A:
Well, you were the first person to ask for an interview without him around. Usually I get interviewed if I drive him somewhere. They'll say 'Oh, can I ask your wife a question?' But the fact that you wanted me to leave him home was somewhat appealing. Plus, anyone can find out his stats and his bio by Googling, but no one really knows what his life is like off the field and I'm probably the best person to talk to about that.

Q: So what is your relationship like?
A:
People ask me that all the time what it's like being married to him and honestly I can't explain it. We have a very normal relationship. We love to go to the movies. It's easy for me to have a normal life with him because he is so simple, I say to him all the time, "I don't think even you know you're LaDainian Tomlinson and he says 'What do you mean by that?' He just doesn’t know that he's a superstar. At home, it's very normal. Plus, it's not like I am married to the LaDainian Tomlinson that everyone else knows, it's a different level. He doesn't come home where he just broke records and I'm on my knees worshipping him, I'm like, 'take out the trash and clean up the dog poop because I told you to do it yesterday and now it stinks.'

We also have a date night every Monday. You see, everyday during the week LaDainian goes to bed at 9 pm because he gets up early but since he doesn't go to work on Tuesdays, Monday night is the night we go out. It's our night. He doesn't do any interviews, there's no anything, we normally go to the movies, or go-kart riding or to the putt-putt. He's just a big kid.

By the way, he'll be happy that I am referring to "practice" as "work." Every time I would say, "how's practice?" he'd say, "it's not practice, it's work." So now I've learned to call it work.

Q: Is it easy to go out in San Diego, or do you find it difficult with fans clamoring to talk to him?
A:
I love San Diego because it's a different market when it comes to football, what I love about San Diego is that the people are so respectful so if we're out, they might walk by and in passing say great game LaDaninain and keep moving … or good luck next season…where as in Texas, we're from Texas and so we can never meet a stranger because everyone there is like family so if we're out eating, people will just pull up a chair next to us and sit down and order food. We don't get that here, it's a lot easier, and laid back. We love it.

Tomorrow: Part II of the LaTorsha Tomlinson interview.

Stacey Pressman is a contributor to NBCSports.com. She can be reached at StaceyPressman@aol.com
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