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Faulk’s brilliant mind took him to Hall of Fame
“He was such a smart football player,” said Irsay, who insists he will always consider Faulk a Colt even though he’ll be inducted as a Ram. “We really looked at him as a coach on the field. He knows the game so well, it’s incredible.”
He won the 1994 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award, topped 1,000 yards four times, made three Pro Bowls and led the Colts to back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time in nearly two decade. Then, in 1998, he started mentoring another New Orleans native, rookie quarterback Peyton Manning.
Though Faulk played pranks on the rookie, they were all business when it mattered. Faulk said he taught Manning how to deal with the media, how to adapt to the NFL game and, together, they read defenses. In fact, Faulk lined up deeper in the backfield just to see the defenses better.
“Marshall’s ability to read defenses was as good as any quarterback,” Manning said. “He was a tremendous presence for me, and I always will be grateful to him for helping me that year. I loved watching him play, and it is only right that he is taking his place in Canton among the greatest players who have played the game. There will never be another like him.”
When he asked for a new contract, with two years still left on his rookie deal, the Colts refused and traded him to the Rams. Bill Polian still calls it one of the toughest decisions he’s ever made.
At first, his new Rams teammates weren’t sure what Faulk would bring to the team.
“I think originally before we even knew much of Marshall, I think everybody got the take that he wasn’t really happy in Indy and wasn’t getting the ball enough. So that was our initial response, `We’ve got this superstar, how do we keep him happy?’” Warner said. “It didn’t take long to realize whatever happened in Indianapolis stayed in Indianapolis because he was the ultimate team player. All he wanted was our team to be good.”
Martz, the offensive coordinator, told Faulk they didn’t want to wear him down with 300 carries a year. So the Rams were going to create mismatches with Faulk in the passing game and let him use his running skills to break free.
When defenses tried to adapt, Faulk simply adjusted on the fly.
The results were incredible: An NFL record three straight seasons with 500-plus points, two Super Bowl appearances in three seasons and an improbable Super Bowl title in Faulk’s first season in St. Louis. Warner won the league’s MVP award twice during that stretch. Faulk won it once.
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