PHOENIX San Diego Chargers record-setting running back LaDainian Tomlinson thanked God and his mom as he received the 20th annual Bart Starr Award during the Athletes in Action Super Bowl Breakfast Feb. 2.
Starr presented the award, which honors Hall of Famer Starr's lifelong commitment to be a positive role model to his family, teammates and community.
In a brief but emotional speech at the NFL-sanctioned event, Tomlinson credited his mother, Loreane, for keeping the family afloat and attuned to faith.
"We didn't have much growing up, but we had a home," Tomlinson said of his upbringing in a small town near Waco, Texas.
"When I was in high school, my mom accepted Christ into her life and that made all the difference. That is what life is all about," the All-Pro running back said.
"One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Luke 12:48 which says where much if given, much is required," Tomlinson recounted.
"It also says in the Bible it's harder for a rich man to get into heaven than a poor one. I have so much now; I'll never forget that challenge. I live by that verse which always keeps me humble."
He thanked his mother and his wife, LaTorsha, for their willingness to stand with him in good times and bad.
"When you're knocked down in life, Jesus Christ in us says get up and try again," Tomlinson said. "I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for allowing me to stand before you."
Tony Dungy, who led the Indianapolis Colts to a Super Bowl victory in 2007, said the right player received the Bart Starr Award for the right reason.
"LT has put the knife in us several times with the Chargers," Dungy said of Tomlinson, regarded as one of this generation's premier running backs.
"But there is no one I respect more for the way he carries himself," Dungy told the breakfast crowd at the Arizona Biltmore, "and I make it a point to tell him that every time we play."
Also speaking at the breakfast were Hall of Fame linebacker Mike Singletary, formerly of the Chicago Bears and now an assistant head coach with the San Francisco 49ers, and Derrick Brooks, a Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker.
"Players will always follow someone with character," Singletary said of the Bart Starr Award honorees over the years. "They will gravitate to that person."
The breakfast also included a video tribute to longtime Dallas Cowboys chaplain John Weber, who died last fall. His widow was on hand to receive a special tribute from Athletes in Action President Bill Pugh.