Whicker: Love of the game drives Chargers GM Tom Telesco

SAN DIEGO – Tom Telesco started on the bottom floor before he knew it was an analogy.

He came to the Carolina Panthers when they were an expansion skeleton. He was an intern, fresh off his receiving career at John Carroll University, unsure of anything except that he wanted to work in the field of pro football.

And he did.

“I rolled the tarp off the field, I worked in the weight room,” Telesco said the other day. “Our offices were in the basement of the Winthrop University gym, in Rock Hill, S.C. I just went down there for training camp. Things would come up and they’d have me do them. When camp broke, there were still things to do.”

Telesco is 44, though he looks 34, and has spent his youth and much of his incipient middle age consuming pro football from the roots.

He has run the Chargers for four seasons, with mixed outcomes. They were 9-7 and 9-7, and then 4-12 and 5-11. Mike McCoy, the head coach Telesco hired, is gone. The Chargers come to L.A. with the desperate hope that 2017 can’t be like 2016.

Telesco isn’t speculating. He is refreshingly devoid of theory, having spent his life learning to love an unlovable game, and thus discerning the pigskin from the hogwash.

“It’s tough to know where we are,” he said of the Chargers. “I don’t know. We have a good core. But we turned it over way too much. We did get more turnovers defensively, but we have to rush the passer better. Go through all the tough losses. There’s a different reason for each one.”

The Chargers got wiped out by injuries, dealt with a holdout from eventual Defensive Rookie of the Year Joey Bosa, and kept playing 55 minutes when 60 were required. They were minus-7 in turnovers, with 14 lost fumbles and 21 interceptions.

Telesco has largely drafted by the book. He traded up to get runner Melvin Gordon, and took Bosa with pick No. 3 when many studio experts thought he shouldn’t.

But he also took receiver Keenan Allen in the third round and 5-foot-9…

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