SAN DIEGO – Take a drive through Mission Valley and there’s no evidence of the stadium that the Chargers called home for five decades.
But the memory lives on, particularly in those who knew it like former Chargers running back Terrell Fletcher.
“It was the stadium I grew up in,” Fletcher said. “My whole time here in San Diego we played at Qualcomm. It was an icon in the center of our city. At the time when Mission Valley was kind of the space that was almost directly related to Charger activity, it meant that.”
Fletcher, now 47, was a second round pick by the Chargers in the 1995 NFL Draft after a decorated career at Wisconsin. He played eight professional seasons, tallying 1,871 rushing yards, nearly 2,000 receiving yards and 13 total touchdowns. These days, he works as a senior pastor at City of Hope International Church and remains active in the community.
He said the former Qualcomm Stadium represented much of what San Diego and the Chargers were about during his tenure.
“Watching it being torn down — my brother lives in the area so I get to see it from time to time — so watching it be dismantled piece by piece has been a unique emotion to be honest with you,” he said. “I didn’t anticipate having an emotion around an inanimate object, but there is a bit of emotion because it’s not just the tearing down of the stadium.
“That whole platform has a different vision for it so it’s sort of erasing the memory of some years of good times that we had.”
Fletcher recently recalled two of his favorite moments playing in the stadium.
The first came during the team’s first preseason game of his rookie season, where he returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in a 23-19 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.
“I’m never gonna forget that,” he said.
The other came several years later during the 1998 season with the Chargers trailing the Kansas City Chiefs 34-17 in the 4th quarter. Fletcher scored two touchdowns in the game, including one in the 4th quarter to keep them in it as they mounted a comeback for a 38-37 win.
“It was just fun to be a part of,” Fletcher said. “We had some good times in that stadium. Every year wasn’t a great year, but we had a handful of playoff years and a few tough years. By the time I left, we were on the upswing yet.
“It will be dear to me. Charger football is how I got to San Diego, you know? I would not have been here if not for the sports industry.”