LaDanian Tomlinson helped sell out football stadiums during his 11-year NFL career (he’s shown above left, in uniform) — but now he’s using his profile to draw crowds to the cinema for an uplifting Christian message.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer stars as Pastor Williams in a small town in Kentucky in “God Bless the Broken Road,” which hit theaters across the country today.
The film — directed by Harold Cronk (best-known for his 2014 film “God’s Not Dead”) — centers around Amber Hill (played by Lindsay Pulsipher), whose military husband is killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.
As a result, she struggles to manage her life while raising their young daughter.
Although initially she loses faith after the atrocity, she eventually becomes more involved with her church and community in her time of need.
Tomlinson came into the production as very light on acting experience, but he had done his share of endorsements on commercials as an athlete — and also had plenty of screen time as an analyst on the NFL Network since retiring in 2012.
Plus, as a football player, he had to learn his team’s offense and prepare for the opposition on a weekly basis.
That said, he had some relevant skills.
LifeZette spoke to him by phone. “I really have developed some study habits there which helped as I was remembering my lines and understanding what we were hoping to get out of the scenes we were doing,” the 39-year-old said in an interview.
”I was taught at an early age how to study for another team and to learn the playbook. Those are attributes you have to have in sports, and you can take those over to film.”
“If I didn’t have the football background, I don’t think I would’ve been able to pull this off,” he added.
Tomlinson also credits co-stars Pulsipher, Jordin Sparks, and Andrew Walker for helping “coach” him as an actor.
As for playing the role of a pastor, Tomlinson said he had two inspirations in particular: his mother, who was a preacher, and his former San Diego Chargers teammate, Terrell Fletcher, who was also his pastor in San Diego.
“The director told me he wanted me to be loving and accepting and more of a teaching pastor rather than a spitting fire type of preacher where I’m yelling,” he said.
Since he is better known for scoring an NFL-best 138 rushing touchdowns in the 2000s (2001-2009 with the San Diego Chargers), one may wonder why he went with acting — as opposed to anything else he could have done after his career as an athlete ended.
In addition to the faith component of “God Bless the Broken Road,” Tomlinson took the role because he is friendly with one of the film’s producers, Gary Lewis, and also because proceeds from the work will go to benefit the Disabled American Veterans organization. Tomlinson has served as an ambassador for the group since 2012.
“No matter what you go through, if you have your faith and your belief in God, then you will be able to overcome any obstacles.”
“That fits right in line with my everyday mission of serving my community and especially our military veterans,” he said. “I want to help them as much as possible. When I lived in San Diego, we had a big military population, so I did various things with the military out there and still do. The fact that we can benefit them is such a plus.”
Tomlinson revealed he is open to acting again if another meaningful role like this one comes up. He also explained what he hopes people take away from the film.
“I really hope it inspires them and brings hope to their everyday journey in life because nobody’s path is straight,” he said. “No matter what, there’s always going to be a broken road. No matter what you go through, if you have your faith and your belief in God, then you will be able to overcome any obstacles.”
Check out the trailer for “God Bless the Broken Road” below:
Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.