‘Touchdown Tommy’ Calls It a Career
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Fullback Tommy Vardell, a bruising runner, blocker and pass catcher whose eight-year NFL career was hampered by injuries, retired Friday, saying his heart was no longer in the game.
``It’s time for me to move on,″ said Vardell, who earned the moniker `Touchdown Tommy’ for his many end-zone punching runs at Stanford. ``I’ve taken football as far as I want to take it.
``It’s been great to me. I’ve been exposed to so many different situations. I’ve been exposed to pressure, to praise, to criticism, highs and lows and a whole range of personalities and I’m grateful for it all because it helped me to grow and to enjoy my career.″
The 6-foot-2, 230-pound Vardell, who combined blocking, running and receiving skills in the mold of the modern fullback, played for the San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions and Cleveland Browns, who drafted him in the first round in 1992.
``Tommy is one of the greatest players in Stanford history and had an excellent professional career,″ 49ers general manager Bill Walsh said. ``He was a great competitor and a true professional.″
Vardell ranks second on Stanford’s career list in touchdowns (37) and sixth in points (222) and rushing yards (1,789). Over the last two seasons at Stanford, he averaged a touchdown every 10.1 carries.
He spent four years with the Browns, rushing for a career-high 644 yards in 1993 but went down with a season-ending knee injury midway through the ’94 campaign and spent much of the next year rehabbing.
Vardell also spent two years in Detroit, where he was the primary blocker for Barry Sanders, including the 1997 season, when Sanders rushed for an NFL-best 2,053 yards.
Vardell had separate tours with the the 49ers, playing in San Francisco in 1996 and returning for his final season last year. He began the year as the starter but lost his job to Fred Beasley about six weeks into the season and played little after that.