Stepping out of his brother's shadow
Lavar Tomlinson cant run away and hide. Wherever he goes, it follows him.Being the younger brother of former TCU running back and 2000 Heisman Trophy finalist LaDanian Tomlinson is an everyday job. Whether hanging out around campus or just sitting in class, he is constantly asked about the brother who could possibly be a top-10 selection in Aprils NFL Draft.Im never going to get out of his shadow, but thats something I deal with, he said. Its something I deal with every day and every night. When I wake up, I still live with it. Theres nothing I can do about it.Never mind the fact that Lavar himself was a standout defensive lineman at Dallas Samuel High School. Never mind that he was highly recruited. Never mind he saw time this past season at defensive end for Sam Houston State as a true freshman. Little is known, or even asked, about his recent decision to leave the Bearkat family after this spring to pursue a transfer to the University of Arkansas. To most people, it doesnt seem to matter.It doesnt really bother me, but I get tired of everyone coming up to me and asking, So, hows your brother? Lavar said.I think hes tired of being known as LaDanians little brother, said Lorene Chappell, who has witnessed it all as the mother of the two.But Lavars problem started long before LaDanian busted onto the collegiate scene with a fantastic junior season at TCU in 1999. Growing up, LaDanian was always known as the athlete of the family. He would even go as far as sleeping with his football every night just to be close to the game he loved. It wasnt, however, until after experimenting with the game in pee-wee football and in junior high, did the game finally make sense to Lavar. At first, Lavar said, football was a competition. Not a competition on the field, however, but a competition to gain the approval and liking of his family, friends and of course, his brother.(LaDanian) was being showed a lot of love for playing football and I was being showed a lot of love for being smarter, Lavar said. But I always wanted to be a role model. My brother always played ball and I was always like, If hes playing ball, then Im going to play ball and get shown some love, and that became my life...It was just always something I felt like I should do. I wanted to make my older brother and parents proud.Football finally became fun for Lavar during his 8th grade year in Waco. But a difficult decision was made after that year when Chappell decided to move her family to Dallas (Garland). Not wanting to move LaDanian away from Waco University High School where he had established himself as a prep football star, Chappell left him with close friends of the family. The move was hard for Lavar. Leaving his older brother and role model behind was not easy and his new-found love for the game of football almost diminished during his freshman year at South Garland High School. I was so miserable for leaving my brother behind and the coaches couldnt click with me. The school couldnt click with me, he said. I stuck with it and talked with my brother for a long time and he told me, Man, its your life. Youve got to do what you think is best. Youve got to do what your heart tells you. Listening to that, I went on and stuck with the game and from then on, its been something I wanted to do.From South Garland, he went on to Garland Lakeview and eventually ended up at Dallas Samuel High School his sophomore year. There as a senior, Lavar earned 13-4A All-District Honors and was a member of the All-Metroplex team as an honorable mention. When recruiting season came around, Lavar received letters from schools across the nation. After becoming fully qualified academically, he decided Huntsville was his best opportunity.A number of colleges recruited me and Sam Houston was the college that really stuck with me, he said. He didnt see that much time as a true freshman, recording only eight tackles. But he said he understands that freshman cant start out on top, especially at the college level. The reason for his decision to transfer, he said, had more to do with off the field problemsspecifically, the small town of Huntsville.I told the coaches theres nothing wrong with the football program here, I enjoyed it, Lavar said. I told the coaches that I love the coaches and I love my teammates. Its just the fact that after I leave the football field, Im miserable. Its just Huntsville. Im not going to say theres nothing to do, its just not for me.I wanted him to stay where he was, said Chappell, who made a trip to Huntsville to speak with coaches about her sons decision. It was the basis of what me and his brother wanted him to do.After Lavar made the final decision to transfer, she gave her consent.Lavar has a strong family, she added. We wanted him to do what is best, but I told him, you make the decision and were going to stand behind you. If he can improve his grades, which could be the only thing that could keep him from getting into Arkansas, he will move there this summer to start a new lifeif thats possible.I tell him to take it and use it, Chappell said of Lavars affiliation with his brother. It can open several doors and get him places. At the same time, hes still Levar. I tell him to go to the level that he can go to and no more.Lavar is LaDanians little brother and he always will be... she said. I tell everyone that Im blessed to have three wonderful kids. I thank God.Only time will tell if LaDanian will be the next best NFL running back. But as long as he is the topic of ongoing questions, Lavar will continue to bite his tongue and go along with it. Me and my brother look alike, but were really two different people, he said. We look alike, but our thinking and our mind-set is very different. He plays offense and I play defense. People say, You cant do what your brother does. Well, Im not trying to. Im trying to do what I can do. Im making a name for myself.
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