San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson is chasing NFL records – and even throwing touchdown passes.

SAN DIEGO (AP) – From the City of Brotherly Love to Oakland’s infamous “Black Hole” to his own locker room, LaDainian Tomlinson is earning five-star reviews.

Being arguably the best player in the NFL will do that. So will chasing 40-year-old records and being a triple threat. Or simply being a quiet, humble guy.

“LaDainian Tomlinson is having a video-game year,” said Donovan McNabb, whose Eagles host Tomlinson’s San Diego Chargers on today.

These days, that may be the ultimate compliment.

“I love the fact that each year on PlayStation, the kid is awesome. You put him anywhere and he’s a beast,” the quarterback explained.

Tomlinson, who was pictured on the cover of NFL GameDay 2004 for PlayStation2, chuckled when McNabb’s comments were relayed to him.

“Donovan, man, he’s a character. I don’t know. Hopefully it continues if I am having one,” the star running back said. “They say I can’t be stopped on PlayStation. Guys tell me they ran for 300 yards. I hope I can get 300 yards.”

Digitally and in real life, Tomlinson is having a remarkable season. And going back to last season, he’s in the most consistent stretch of his five-year career.

Early in last Sunday’s 27-14 win at Oakland, Tomlinson caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees to tie Hall of Famer Lenny Moore’s NFL record for consecutive games with at least one touchdown, 18.

Tomlinson wasn’t finished, though. He ran 7 yards for another TD, then threw a 4-yard scoring pass to tight end Justin Peelle to become the seventh player in history with the run-catch-pass TD trifecta.

It was Tomlinson’s second scoring pass of the year and the third of his career.

Tomlinson can own the record outright by scoring a touchdown today at Philadelphia. As usual, he’s taking a low-key approach.

“I guess I’ve kind of thought about it somewhat, just for the fact that nobody in the past 40 years has touched it. And that’s amazing to me,” Tomlinson said. “But I would sacrifice not getting the record for a victory any day. I think that explains how important it is for me.”

Tomlinson also extended his own NFL record of scoring a touchdown rushing in 18 straight games.

When Tomlinson tied Moore’s record, he flicked the ball over his right shoulder, walked away, then went back and grabbed it. It will eventually be displayed in a trophy case in his home.

“I want to be able to show my kids the record balls, different trophies. They are important, no doubt, but also, winning the Super Bowl is really important to me, too,” said Tomlinson, who’s rushed for 652 yards and 10 touchdowns in six games, and caught 18 passes for 169 yards and one score.

That’s Tomlinson. While keeping one eye on the next hole he’s going to come zigzagging through, he keeps the other on the big picture. He’d love nothing more than to bring a championship to the Chargers, who were among the league’s most consistent losers when they took him with the fifth pick overall in the 2001 draft.

The Chargers have since surrounded Tomlinson with players such as Brees, tight end Antonio Gates and a solid offensive line, which has only made him better.

“He has everything it takes to be a great back, and that’s why he is one,” Philadelphia free safety Brian Dawkins said. “He can stop you in your tracks. He can stop and go on a dime. He can spin on you. He can throw the ball. He can catch the ball. He can run you over. He can bull you for three yards, and get into the end zone. Then he has the jets to get past you if you sit on him.”

After practice Monday, three Chargers rookies sat in front of a TV and watched replays of Tomlinson slashing through Oakland’s defense. There wasn’t a PlayStation in sight.

“Watch this cut,” said one.

“Ooh,” said another, “it’s almost like his body didn’t know he could do that.”

Outside linebacker Shawne Merriman, the 12th pick in this year’s draft, couldn’t imagine having to play against his teammate.

“No way in the world. I mean, he just has vision, man. I see it some time, like a linebacker’s coming to hit him in the side and he’s not even looking at him but he feels him, and he makes a cut. As a defender, you can’t do anything about it. The guy’s just that good.”

Tomlinson has also become known for his quiet demeanor, which suggests he’s anything but a superstar.

“One thing I love about LaDainian, again it goes back to a guy that’s not flashy,” McNabb said. “He’s willing to do whatever it takes to help his team win. He may not have a great game every week, but when he has a great game, everyone is going to talk about it. He’s a big-time leader. He’s a guy that is unselfish. He always gives credit to his O-line and to Drew Brees and the team.”

As remarkable as Tomlinson’s football talent is, “I think everyone should be more amazed at the man that he is,” Chargers fullback Lorenzo Neal said. “I think he’s a better man than he is a player.”

Tomlinson credits that to his upbringing in Waco, Texas, where he idolized Emmitt Smith. Tomlinson’s mother, Loreane, continually stressed he wouldn’t make it to the NFL if he didn’t make it to college first.

“She just always told me that anything I wanted in life, it wasn’t going to come easy. I had to work for it,” said Tomlinson, who was a star at TCU.

Maybe that’s why when Tomlinson scores, he acts like he’s been there before – 71 times in 69 games. He tied Hall of Famer Jim Brown as the second-fastest player to reach 70 TDs. Hall of Famer Steve Van Buren scored 70 touchdowns in his first 68 games.

Tomlinson doesn’t showboat when he scores. He usually tosses the ball to a ref or just leaves it on the ground.

“I think the entertainment for me comes during the play, getting to the end zone,” Tomlinson said. “I don’t need more entertainment doing some celebration in the end zone.”

Tomlinson seems to have even won over some of the wild fans who populate Oakland’s “Black Hole.”

While Raiders fans used to treat him like dirt, “now it’s kind of more, L.T., don’t do us too bad,’ ” he said following Sunday’s win. “It’s a mutual respect. It’s not as hard as it used to be.”

Then it dawned on Tomlinson just how popular he’s become, even with rival fans.

“I think some of them fans are fantasy owners, too,” Tomlinson said.

AP-ES-10-20-05 1904EDT

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