Marshall Faulk, born and raised in Louisiana, found his way to sunny San Diego on a football scholarship to play for the Aztecs. A long way from home, San Diego State was one of few division 1 schools to offer Faulk the chance to play his position of running back; most others recruited him as a quarterback. San Diego was a good fit, as it turned out, leading the naysayers to question their thought process as Marshall started from day one and ended his Freshman campaign with a startling 1429 yards rushing and 23 total touchdowns. The high point came early against the University of the Pacific where he piled up 386 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in just his second collegiate start. Too small for the position they said, Marshall finished his college career with 62 total touchdowns, proving that he could play.
Marshall Faulk Drafted by Colts
With the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft, Indianapolis selected Faulk to be the next star for the Colts; Marshall didn’t disappoint rushing for 202 yards in his very first game continuing his tendency for a good first impression. He finished his rookie campaign with 1282 yards and 12 total touchdowns and an 8-8 record. Marshall continued his success in his sophomore season with 1078 yards scoring 14 total touchdowns leading his young Indianapolis Colts to the playoffs and eventually an AFC Championship showdown with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Disappointed, Marshall was unable to play because of a toe injury that had hampered him in the previous weeks. The Colts fell to the Steelers as they saw their shot disappear in the dark. Pittsburgh went on to lose the Super Bowl to the Dallas Cowboys and the three-headed monster offense.
1996, Marshall’s third year in the league, was his most disappointing, playing in just 13 games, rushing for just 587 yards on a career low 3 yards per carry. Marshall bounced back in 1997 with yet another 1000-yard season, setting him up for a breakout season in 1998, when it seemed that the stars aligned for this budding superstar. Breakout season to say the least, Marshall put up career numbers in every major category. He rushed for 1319 yards but most importantly caught 86 balls for 906 yards receiving, giving him 2227 total yards from scrimmage edging out league MVP Terrell Davis by 2 yards. With all the success, however, apparently Indianapolis and Marshall Faulk didn’t see eye to eye and team president Bill Polian dealt the superstar to St. Louis for a pair of picks in the upcoming draft. Marshall stated it as a misunderstanding; however you can’t change the past and Marshall didn’t look back.
The Marshall Plan
Marshall was happy to be a Ram and St. Louis welcomed him with open arms. Trying to top his 1998 season proved to be difficult but as was previously discussed, Faulk had a thing with first impressions. He planned on one upping the Colts for giving up too soon, as the previous year was just scratching the surface of perhaps the best 4-year stretch by any player in NFL history. 1999 was a year to remember in the life of any Rams’ fan across the country. Picked to finish near the bottom of their division, the St. Louis Rams were about to shock the world. Marshall came out of the box blazing with an all around great season. He set a career high in rushing yards breaking his mark from the prior season with 1381 yards. He also cumulatively became the second player in the history of the NFL to rush and receive for 1000 yards in the same season joining Roger Craig as the only players to do so. 2429 was his total yards from scrimmage also breaking Barry Sanders’ record of 2358 yards set in 1997. Some would still say the best was yet on the horizon.
Football, most would say, is the most team-oriented sport we actively view in the United States. Therefore, the goal would be the pinnacle of the Lombardi Trophy. Not much was thought of the Rams’ roster at the beginning of the season yet, with Marshall’s heroics and the eruption of a stellar passing game fueled by the wide open attack of Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz. Just one piece of the puzzle was still missing. With Trent Green going down early in the season, it came to unproven backup Kurt Warner. Warner did not disappoint on his way to the MVP award, edging out Marshall. By about 10 games into the season, people were believing that this team would not be stopped.
The Greatest Show on Turf was rising fast aptly named for the high scoring attack playing on the astro turf in St. Louis. This blend of talent took St. Louis to Super Bowl 34 and a shot at a championship. The Tennessee Titans were the opponent after shocking the AFC, setting up a showdown to be remembered. Heading into the game it was a battle of highly skilled offenses matching up to see who would prevail. Kurt Warner- Marshall Faulk vs. Steve McNair- Eddie George, two of the best tandems in the NFL going head to head. Marshall had a very forgettable game rushing the ball for a meager 17 yards, yet was a huge catalyst in the passing game with 5 catches for 90 yards. It wasn’t a particular performance that caught anybody’s eye, per say, but it was how the game ended that will rest in the minds of football fans everywhere.
It was late in the fourth quarter with the Rams leading, victory hanging in the air. Steve McNair, former league MVP, was leading his Titans down the field with the hopes of Titans Nation resting on his shoulders. In the last seconds with one last play, McNair fired across the middle, hit Derek Mason on the 4-yard line. He got tripped up and corralled by linebacker Mike Jones, and fell short on his diving efforts to take the lead. Time expired with a stretched out Mason falling mere inches from victory, giving Faulk and the Rams Lombardi’s Trophy. It was a magical season capped by a great finish on the biggest stage.
Marshall Faulk NFL MVP
A year after grasping the hearts of America with their offensive display of the prior year, the expectations were high in St. Louis. Marshall was to do all he could to help the powerhouse Rams repeat. 2000 went down in history with 1359 yards rushing and 830 through the air. Marshall had his third consecutive season with 2000 yards from scrimmage in just 14 games played. Marshall also did the unthinkable of 26 touchdowns in one season breaking Emmitt Smith’s mark. However, as ground breaking a number 26 scores was, it would go on to be broken 3 times in the next 6 seasons. The Rams offense in the 2000 season didn’t skip a beat; however the defense was a different story. With statistically the best offense in the league despite Kurt Warner’s league lead in interceptions, the defense was also a statistical leader, however nothing to be proud of, they led the league in points given up. These two particular factors led to Marshall putting the team on his back on his way to the league MVP, a second straight offensive player of the year award and a second straight playoff venture. It was just too bad that the defense was awful, ending in a quick playoff exit.
Faulk Becomes NFL Champ
As the 2001 season started, Marshall was determined to lead the Rams back to the top. He started off by having his most productive year to date on the ground totaling 1382 yards and adding 765 yards receiving for a total of 2147 yards from scrimmage and 21 total touchdowns. With the defense from the prior year restructured to stop the opponent and Kurt Warner back on his game, collecting his second MVP in three years, the stars were to align for a dominant St. Louis club. As Marshall led his team too and through the NFC and straight to the Super Bowl, Marshall was hoping to add his name to the list of two time champs. As heavy favorites in Super Bowl 36, the Rams were thought to destroy the Cinderella opponents, the New England Patriots. As it turned out, that’s why they play the game. The Patriots took control early with great defense including a defensive touchdown scored by Terrell Buckley. With the Rams trailing late, the Rams thought they had sent it to overtime when Warner hit Ricky Proel for a touchdown with a little over a minute left. The game was tied 17 all and it came down to young quarterback Tom Brady. He led a last minute drive setting up a field goal try by Adam Vinatieri in the waning moments to break the hearts of Rams’ fans everywhere. The 20-17 final score ended a spectacular run for the Rams of St. Louis.
Marshall Faulk Awaits the Hall of Fame
Four straight years of dominance led Marshall to capture the cover spot for the heralded Madden football game; life would never be the same for the superstar athlete. From 1998 to 2001 few would argue that Faulk was the single most dominant football player on the planet; however with great success comes great hardships. After playing in two Super Bowls and winning three Offensive Player of the Year awards and one league MVP award, some would say he could have won four straight MVP awards; Marshall would never again rush for 1000 yards. His career ended with a plethora of injuries and he played backup to Stephen Jackson in his final escapades. Marshall will go down as one of the greatest backs ever to play the game as he tallied totals of 12279 yards rushing and 6875 total receiving yards to go with 136 total touchdowns. Marshall Faulk officially announced his retirement on March 26, 2007.
By T. Lewis, 20Yardline.com