- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 31, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Marshall Faulk literally can't go home again. The housing project where he once lived here has been replaced by trendy apartments.
But there's still plenty of reminders of the past for the St. Louis Rams running back. Sunday's Super Bowl XXXVI will be at the Superdome, where he once sold popcorn and even played in high school. Faulk can visit the local restaurant where he worked as a fry cook before quitting because he didn't want to wash dishes. There's even a barber shop where Faulk cut hair for $5.
Faulk left New Orleans in search of the kind of life the youngest of six kids couldn't scratch out in one of the poorest neighborhoods of the "Big Easy." He returns as a possible Hall of Famer.
"I grew up in an all-black housing project and went to an all-black high school. I went to all-black schools for most of my life, and then I went to the melting pot of the world," he said. "I went to a school [San Diego State] where there was everything. It was a little different, but I was open-minded. I wanted to go far away to where I understood that I was good. I was going to be successful doing something."
Calling Faulk a good running back is like saying Bill Gates makes a nice computer. In the NFL's No. 1 offense, known more for its passing, Faulk is truly the offensive core. When St. Louis trailed 17-13 in Sunday's NFC Championship, the Rams opened the third quarter by running Faulk seven straight times. He finished with 159 yards and two touchdowns in the 29-24 victory over Philadelphia.
"Usually a guy of his profile, when they don't get the ball quite a bit, you are going to hear from them that next week," Rams coach Mike Martz said. "Marshall has never had anything but a smile on his face. Marshall is smart enough to know that eventually it is going to be his turn and it is all going to be put on his shoulders."
Faulk has shouldered much during his standout career. However, he found questions about the return home somewhat overwhelming. Everyone wanted to talk about how he overcame a humble beginning, but Faulk felt it was overblown.
"They're good memories. They are either tough or not, [but] all memories are good memories. I look at them like that," he said. "There are people who grew up in rough environments, and you just don't hear about it. They make it in business. They're doctors. They're lawyers. But we're not talking about that. I don't think that makes me what I am.
"I'm not saying, 'Oh, I hate this place.' I love coming home. I just didn't want it to stop there. I didn't accept just getting a high school education as it. I wanted to go to college. I wanted to move on. I wanted better things for myself and my family."
The toughest obstacle in readying for the Super Bowl has been fending off family and friends. He spends his evenings watching TV in his hotel room instead of wandering the French Quarter.
"Expectations from family and friends [are difficult, but Im] hoping that they can understand the fact that I am here to do a job," Faulk said. "I have all this time when the work day is over, but I treat it like a regular week."
A regular week means trouble for the New England Patriots. Faulk is the NFL's most complete back with 9,442 career yards rushing, 5,447 yards in receptions and 110 combined touchdowns.
He led the NFC in combined yards this season with darting moves that are perfect for the quicker artificial turf.
"He has such a great stop and go," Martz said. "He can jump into full gear in two steps. For great players, the game slows down, and it does for him."
Said quarterback Kurt Warner: "He gets so many extra yards that I know other backs won't get because he has got such great vision and patience."
Teammates voted Faulk the Rams' MVP, a surprising show of respect given Warner was the NFL's MVP.
"I felt they should have been co-MVPs," Martz said.
Faulk never liked selling popcorn in the stands. It got in the way of watching the game. Now Faulk's business is on the floor, and everyone will see him. Maybe even the vendors.

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