Die-hard Pats fans logging onto the Patriots website today were greeted by a headline that brought a sense of realism, nostalgia and, admittedly, age to mind. Along the left margin and backed by a wall of nautical blue, the headline sent chills down this writer’s spine.
“Clutch 3-time champion Faulk calls it a career”
In just a few words, the headline captured the on-field highlights of one of the greatest 3rd-down runningbacks in NFL History. “Clutch”, like when Faulk converted a big 3rd-down against the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl XXXVII. Or “Clutch”, like Faulk’s big run against the Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI. What about “3-time Champion”? There’s simply no explanation needed for such an accolade, and quite honestly there isn’t enough time in the day to go through all of Faulk’s contributions to the Patriots – as a player and a person.
What the fans don’t see is the immense leadership that earned Faulk his true veteran status. To be frank, Kevin Faulk rarely lit up the stat sheet. He had his games, for sure, but it was what he said and how he went about his football life that led him to a successful 13-year career.
As a player, Faulk was lauded for his willingness to tutor newcomers to the Patriots, and to lead by example. Faulk’s mantra was always “team-first”, sacrificing playing time and accolades of high praise for wins and a thorough understanding of one of the more complex offenses in the NFL. It is that selfless approach that makes Faulk not only a great player, but a great leader, and a true gentleman.
Fans such as myself are often berated for our overwhelming obsession with this sport – we’re often attacked by claims that this is only a ‘game’. One of the greatest counter-claims to that argument would be to follow the path set forth by Kevin Faulk. Faulk played this game as if it was his job. He showed up every day, and never took a play off. He showed up early to work out, and stayed late to watch game film. Faulk, knowing all well that he was a runningback in a pass-heavy offense, worked harder than any other Patriot to make every single play count. Faulk preached accountability to a man. After every loss, he addressed the fact that there are things that he could’ve done better. Kevin Faulk is the innovator of what is now referred to as the Patriot Way.
Faulk played the game the way it should’ve been played, and led his life the way a child would want to see his dad lead. As a player, Faulk made Patriots fans proud. As a person he was the absolute role model, from top to bottom.
To one of the greatest New England Patriots of all-time: