- Associated Press - Thursday, August 4, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Kurt Warner understood what made the Greatest Show on Turf work.

It wasn’t his strong, accurate arm or those speedy receivers who stretched defenses to the limit. No, the Rams’ secret weapon was Marshall Faulk’s uncanny mind.

“He was designing plays and coming up with thoughts that would make our team better, not just make him better,” Warner said of the newest Rams inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Mike Martz allowed all of us to have some input in what was happening, and Marshall always had ideas about how certain things could be better, how to run routes, how to do this or that. You never knew where it came from, but I knew he was a big part of helping develop that offense.”

Faulk always saw things differently — on and off the field.

He left the tough streets of New Orleans’ ninth ward for the sunny skies of San Diego because he was determined to play running back in college. Still, he never forgot about his roots in the impoverished Desire housing project where he grew up.

And while others touted his incredible skills, Faulk never thought the NFL was a real possibility until his freshman season at San Diego State. Even the thought of becoming a part of football’s greatest shrine was, well, incomprehensible.

That’s how Faulk viewed football, as a small part of life.

“There is a celebration aspect to it,” he said of Saturday’s induction ceremony in Canton, Ohio. “But going in is really more of an acknowledgment that kids in poverty, in their situations, can get out of it, and it doesn’t always come from sports.”

Football was Faulk’s escape, but it was the lessons he learned in New Orleans that propelled him to stardom.

He believed in himself. He wanted to prove the doubters wrong. He had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, learning the high school playbook through every position on the field.

So when the big schools questioned whether the kid from George Washington Carver High School could play running back in college, Faulk followed his heart to the one the school that would give him a chance. It didn’t take long to prove himself.

In his second college game, Faulk ran for a mind-blowing 386 yards and seven touchdowns against the University of Pacific. He finished his freshman season with 1,429 yards, 21 touchdowns and an average of 7.1 yards per carry. He was ninth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

It was no fluke. As a sophomore, Faulk produced 1,758 yards from scrimmage, 15 total touchdowns and was the Heisman runner-up. A year later, he ran for 1,530 yards and 21 TDs and caught 47 passes. He finished with 2,174 yards from scrimmage that season and was fourth in the Heisman voting.

By then, Faulk realized he would earn millions in the NFL. He also started contemplating the bigger picture, like how he wanted to play in the NFL and how he would be perceived in the real world.

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