Marshall Faulk is back in San Diego now that he is retired from a NFL career that will land him in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and has him working as an analyst for NFL Network.
But as Faulk enters the Breitbard Hall of Fame, the truth is he never really left San Diego. He was raised in New Orleans before he burst onto the college football scene at San Diego State as a freshman in 1991, but he’s considered himself a San Diegan since the day he arrived.
“When you come to San Diego for the first time–whether it’s to go to school or to move here–people welcome you whether you call it home or not, “Faulk said. “It’s such a beautiful place. I had a wonderful college career here and the people embraced me.”
He came to SDSU when the Aztecs recruited him as a running back as opposed to high-profile programs such as Nebraska that wanted him as a cornerback. In his second game as a true freshman, he ran for 386 yards against Pacific to set an NCAA rushing record.
Faulk was a three-time All-American for San Diego State in 1991, 1992, and 1993. He was the runner-up for the 1992 Heisman Trophy, a vote San Diegans will forever blame on ESPN’s Lee Corso for openly campaigning for the eventual winner, Miami quarterback Geno Torretta.
Faulk left San Diego State holding many of the school’s rushing and scoring records. He finished his three-year career ranked second in the NCAA in touchdowns with 62.
“Thing’s happened for me here and this place captured me,” Faulk said. “That’s something I have in common with a lot of San Diego people. It gave me an opportunity to move forward with my pro career.”
Faulk will be eligible for the Pro Football Hall of Fame following the 2010 season. But the Breitbard Hall of Fame–which has only a two-year wait following retirement–is the place he’s long held in his heart.
“It’s a privilege and I’m excited about it,” Faulk said. “You never know what’s going to happen to your career when you start out in college or the NFL. You’re honored anytime people can look at your body of work and they respect you for it with this kind of honor. It makes you feel good about the way you carried yourself and how you played the game. To go into the Hall of Fame speaks volumes about you.”
By entering the Hall of Fame, Faulk also joins fellow NFL MVP running backs Marcus Allen and Terrell Davis. Allen, a Lincoln High alum, was inducted following his career with the Los Angeles Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs and Davis, also a Lincoln alum, following his career with the Denver Broncos.
“Without a doubt, that’s special,” Faulk said. “I work with Terrell at the NFL Network and I’m good friends and play golf with Marcus. There are a lot of San Diego people that have impacted my career.”
That includes San Diego State and Chargers coaching legend Don Coryell, who also is a member of the Breitbard Hall of Fame. “I learned a lot about Don Coryell and his impact on football from people in San Diego,” Faulk said. “I talked a lot with Ernie Zampese (a Coryell assistant at SDSU and with the Chargers, and later with other NFL teams).”
Coryell was ahead of his time at opening football with his passing game, and the modern era of football was designed for a player with Faulk’s speed, moves, and ability to catch the football.
Faulk was the second pick of the draft in 1994 by the Indianapolis Colts and rushed for 1,282 yards with 11 touchdowns as a rookie. He was traded to the St. Louis Rams in 1998, where he enjoyed his most success. The Rams won the Super Bowl title in the 1999 season and Faulk was the 2000 NFL MVP.
He finished his career with 100 rushing touchdowns, tied for sixth in the NF, and 136 touchdown, tied for fourth.
“I appreciate everything about my career and my time in San Diego,” Faulk said. “I moved back and I’m doing things in the community with my foundation (Marshall Faulk Foundation) to help inner-city kids make it.”