In 1994, Bill Tobin of the Indianapolis Colts blew it, or at least that's what Mel "The Hair" Kiper believed anyway. Tobin used the #2 pick in the 1994 NFL draft to pick an undersized, mildly flashy running back from San Diego State. Kiper was livid that the Colts had passed on two sure things in franchise quarterbacks named Heath Shuler and Trent Dilfer, and picked Marshall Faulk. After the 94' season, in which Faulk rushed for 1,282 yards (11 TDs) and caught 52 passes for 522 yards (1 TD), I'm thinking Kiper had one of Rodney Dangerfield's pulling at his necktie, bug eyed awkward moments. Marshall earned the AP Offensive Rookie of the year honors that season and never looked back.
In Faulk's second year, he carried the Colts back to the playoffs. The next season he suffered a toe injury that slowed him, but he recovered his 1,000+ yard penchant the next two seasons. In 1998, he became the Marshall Faulk that would go down in NFL history as the greatest all-round running back ever. He rushed for 1319 yards and caught 86 passes for 906 yards for his first 2,000+ combined yards season. That year he ranked as the fourth leading receiver for receptions in the league while winning the NFL rushing title. This would be the first of four straight 2000+ yard seasons. It also marked the end of his Colts tenure when he was traded (due to a contract dispute) in the off season to the St. Louis Rams for a second and fifth round pick in the 1999 draft. It was this moment that the stars aligned for Marshall Faulk and the St. Louis Rams.
To say that Marshall flourished in St. Louis is a huge understatement. His new found home included a coaching staff led by Dick Vermiel and a balls to the walls - will try anything offensive coordinator named Mike Martz. The coaching staff quickly learned that they had acquired one of the smartest players to play professional football. Faulk wasn't just an amazing athlete, he was and is to this day a student of the game. He could read defenses like the best quarterbacks. When he took a hand off from his position oft time four or five yards deep behind Kurt Warner, he had studied the defensive front before him so thoroughly that his lightening cuts looked almost pre-planned. He caught pass after pass, racked up yard after yard... and he and his team won. He became an integral part of what would be one of the most prolific scoring machines in NFL history with three 500+ point seasons and earning them the title of "The Greatest Show on Turf". An AP NFL MVP, he was selected to 6 All-Pro teams (3 first team, 3 second team), 3 times NFL Offensive Player of the Year and a 7 time Pro Bowl selection. Yeah Mel Kiper, Tobin was an idiot...
My admiration for Marshall Faulk started when the Rams acquired him from the Colts and hasn't stopped to this day. Marshall was the consummate professional football player and a roll model on and off the field. This is a man who hasn't forgotten his early life and the travails he had to overcome. His Marshall Faulk Foundation donates money to inner city programs in his hometown of New Orleans, as well as San Diego and St.Louis. He earned his way into the NFL through hard work and intellect.
Marshall Faulk's selection on first ballot didn't shock me in the least. The NFL Hall of Fame welcomes a man who deserves to be mentioned among the great running backs of all time. He has set the standard for the phrase "Complete Running Back" and will be the standard by which all running backs that come after him will be judged in that context. He rushed for 12,279 yards, 6875 receiving yards and 136 combined touchdowns during his professional career.
Of all the titles and honors Marshall Faulk earned during his amazing career, the one I like most is the one that says this:
Marshall Faulk Is a Ram forever... Congratulations on your Induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame!