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Saturday, August 6, 2011
Marshall Faulk HOF enshrinement speech

By ESPN.com staff

Marshall Faulk
"This is football heaven," said first-ballot Hall of Fame inductee Marshall Faulk.
Hall of Fame enshrinement speech of Marshall Faulk, star running back for the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams from 1994-2005:

Boy, this is pretty special. This is big. This right here, these guys, class act. And I'm glad to be a part of it. I want to thank God, and I want to thank God because this is football heaven. When you retire, you may get a chance to go to football heaven, and this is football heaven. Guess what, these guys are on top, because you know what's up above, you know.

Rocky, I want to thank you for your kind introduction. That was some great work. Thank you, too, for being in my corner, Rocky. Thank you for always being honest with me. You've always supported me, recognized when I was right. That part was easy, Rock. It's when I was wrong you would let me know. But you would also explain why, key element there.

You were there to speak with me, with and without judgment. Didn't matter what it was. You've always known me to be the guy that I am. You knew me. There is not another person that I would rather have on this stage with me right now than you. You represented me. You mentored me, but most importantly, thank you for your unwavering friendship that you gave to me.

I also want to acknowledge Rosemary and Joseph Arceneaux Sr., your mom and dad. I know that they are proud of this accomplishment, and they are sitting in the front row seat watching this, Rock. Rock, man, thank you for everything that you contribute to my life. Thank you for being there. Rocky, thank you.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I stand before you a very humble and grateful guy. Before I go any further, I want you to know that I am a football fan just like all of you. I have always, always been a fan and had abiding passion and love and respect for this game of football.

Even when I was a kid selling popcorn in the Superdome because I couldn't afford the ticket to watch the New Orleans Saints. People had bags over their heads then. I wanted to see football. I idolized this game so much. I idolized the professional football player. I actually felt that one day that life could be mine. When that opportunity did come I took it, and literally ran with it.

Now to be standing before you going into the Hall of Fame with this class of athletes, it is a fulfillment of a life's dream. To play this game of football is all I wanted to do. But there wasn't a person that I mimic my game after. There were many guys that I wanted to be like. They didn't compel me to be the best running back that I could be, nor did I push myself to be the best running back that I could be.

Rather, I drove myself to be the best football player that I could be, and that has always been my goal to be the very best football player that I can be.

I pushed myself more than perhaps anyone thought I could because that was the standard that I set for myself. That was my commitment to the game, to myself because I hold such deep respect for this game. In all humility, I could never give it less not than my very best at all times; and because of this, perhaps somewhere down the line, another athlete will be standing here because of how I played the game motivated them to be their very best. So tonight, I dedicate this moment and express my gratitude to those who have inspired me, guided me, and cared for me as I worked diligently to be the very best that I could be.

See, this story is deep. I'm from the Ninth Ward. That is the Desire Projects in New Orleans, Louisiana. Many don't make it out of there. And even though there were drugs and violence, I never wanted to take drugs or die young.

Instead, I channeled every ounce of energy that I had into sports. I played baseball, basketball, football, I ran track. Before whatever reason at George Washington Carver Senior High, I thought basketball was going to be my way out, and ultimately my destiny.

But in making that decision, it didn't stop me. I continued to compete in all sports. Then one day a very special man to me, my high school coach, Wayne Reese, he's here tonight. Where you at, Coach Reese? I know your family's here. You brought a lot of people up from New Orleans. He pulled me aside and asked me a question, a simple question. He asked me, how many 5'9" shooting guards do you see playing in the NBA? You see, I felt like I was a scorer.

Coach Reese had seen me compete in every sport and was aware of my work ethic. Coach was trying to explain to me how other sports would help me, but football could take me places.

Coach, I want to tell you, you taught me responsibility. You taught me that everything in life costs something. It simply depends on what I was willing to spend on it coach, thank you for helping me choose a university. You explained to me the importance of choosing a school that was going to challenge me academically as well as assist and molding me into the best football player that I could be.

You helped me understand how focusing on what was important, it was necessary. It was not necessary the size of the institution, but the quality of men in the program.

People often ask me, why did I choose San Diego State? I tell them San Diego State chose me. The wide receiver coach for the San Diego State Aztecs, now coach for the New Orleans Saints, Curtis Johnson, a New Orleans native. He was in town on a recruiting trip at our game recruiting another player. He saw my tape, took that tape back to Coach Luginbill and Coach Luginbill said, "We need to have this kid."

While going through the recruiting process, they were the first school to offer me an opportunity to play running back. I had been a high school All-American defensive back and just a running back who had not received a lot of attention because I played too many positions on offense.

Coach Luginbill, thank you for giving me the opportunity to develop and hone my skills while playing football at SDSU.

C.J., Curtis Johnson, we call him C.J., thank you for taking the time to watch my tape. Thank you for taking the time to hand that tape to coach. Without those efforts, all of this may not be possible. I may not be standing here before you if I had to go play defensive back somewhere because that was someone else's decision. My decision was to play running back.

Thank you to San Diego State and all my teammates. There's a lot of them out here today.

There is a special thanks that goes out to the guy who hosted me on my recruiting trip to San Diego State, Robert Griffith. Griff, you picked me up from campus and introduced me not just to your friends, but to your family. That was big. From the first time I visited San Diego State, I felt that your teammates were guys just like me who love the game of football and they were down to earth.

To my three roommates, Darnay Scott, Ray Peterson, DeAndre Maxwell, much love goes out to you guys for being the best roommate a little hot head star could ever have. You guys kept me in check. You were there for me. You made sure I stayed humble, and you kept me right.

To the red and black, Aztec Nation. It's plain and simple, Aztec for life. You know.

After leaving San Diego State when I finished my collegiate career, I was drafted by the Colts. I have to give sincere thanks to the guy who drafted Richard Dent. Bill Tobin is the guy who drafted me. Bill, I know you're still here. Thank you. And to Jim Irsay, and the Irsay family. When you take a kid that's 21 and you draft him second overall, we know you're taking a gamble. Thank you for taking that gamble on me. I hope it paid off.

I spent five years with the Colts. The fans there, they were wonderful. The city was a terrific place to start my career. But coming from sunny San Diego to Indianapolis, I had a lot to learn. Those snow days that I thought snow days meant stay home from practice, you guys know when you get that call and you think snow means stay home because you've never been in snow. That's what it was like for me.

You welcomed me. You accepted me. You supported me on and off the field. My teammates and I we enjoyed playing in Indianapolis. Win or lose, you guys were there. I enjoyed Indianapolis because it laid the ground work for the player that I was going to evolve into.

But if there was one person when I was in Indianapolis that I had to say was responsible for the player that I am today, it's Gene Huey. Gene, I know you're here. It's amazing how much your earlier years you can dislike a coach and then learn to love him. Gene, you held me accountable. You introduced me to the film room. You taught me how to break down not just my opponents, but myself. You taught me how to be a professional on and off the field.

Gene, man to man, I thank you for challenging me to be a better man. I'd like to thank my Indianapolis Colts teammates that I played with. I enjoyed you. I learned a lot from you. Sorry if I rubbed you the wrong way.

I have to give a big thanks to Roosevelt Potts. The guy was the starting running back before I got there. Rushed for 1,000 yards. Potts, thanks for sacrificing your body while providing protection for me.

Played with another great guy there, Peyton Manning. I only had the opportunity to play one year with Peyton, but he taught me a lot. It was a sight to watch the maturation process from week 1 to week 16. The leadership, dedication, and the attention to detail that he demonstrated as a rookie first overall pick. Buddy, I'm honored to say that I have played with one of the game's greatest.

Unfortunately, sometimes you move on, and my time was up in Indianapolis after five years. At the end of my time there, it was kind of unclear where I was going to go. But the St. Louis Rams, they had an idea. They acquired me in a trade, and with that trade brought forth the birth of the greatest show on turf.

Ram fans, I considered you guys what Nelly's called his crew the Saint Lunatics, because you were there for us. It was so much fun to play with a group of men who didn't care who won the most accolades. All they wanted to do was win. We were the definition of a team.

To every player that put on a Ram's uniform from '99 to 2005, thank you. Every guy that blocked for me, Big O, Adam Timmerman, touchdown Tommy Nutten, because every time you scored, Tommy was there to help you up. Robert Holdcumbe, James Hodgens, the strongest man I know, Ernie Conwell. Bloody Knuckles himself, Roland Williams. To you guys, because you really don't get noticed for the work that you do. Thank you for all your blood, sweat and tears. It was a pleasure to my skill guys where individual accomplishments meant nothing.

Isaac Bruce, what a pleasure to watch you play. Torry Holt, what a professional. Ricky Proehl, I have to say this: In 1998, Ricky Proehl led the Rams in receptions and touchdowns. In the '99 pro season, Ricky Proehl caught one touchdown, and the whole year you didn't hear about that touchdown, because that touchdown was in an NFC Championship game. Never wavered, never complained, never said anything.

My Aztec little homey, Az Zahir Hakim. It was a pleasure watching you grow up. There was another guy that was a part of the greatest show that you don't hear about. He wore No. 82. Guy to make mention, Tony Horne, because he filled in when somebody went down. He returned kicks for us, and you want to talk about setting a tempo as a kick returner? Normally you set the tempo when you kick off. Tony Horne set the tempo running the ball and taking guys out.

Thank you for your trust and being selfless. No one was above that team. No one. I believe that our greatest strength was that we believed in the team more than our individual accomplishments.

I would give anything right now to be in the huddle one minute, 80 yards down by six with the greatest show on turf. Because that's when we were at our best with our backs against the wall.

Kurt, I didn't leave you out. I didn't.Thank you for being our leader, Kurt. Man, you constantly stood in the pocket, taking every hit to make that offense successful.

Kurt, I look forward to the day that I am sitting here witnessing you and other of my ram teammates at this podium enjoying this experience.

Mike Martz, what a pleasure. Your creative mind and appreciation for doing things that people said can't be done on a football field are what made you unique. People always questioned your love for throwing the football, and your running back. I asked why?

See, before Aaron Rodgers threw the ball 50 times in the Super Bowl against the Steelers defense and his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger threw it 48, and we watched Peyton Manning running play action without a running game, we had Mike Martz, the Mad Scientist is what they called him because it didn't make sense to them. Mike, I love it that you brought out the best in me. I also appreciated that when I had my own ideas, and I had a lot of them, I had a lot of them you took them into consideration. Sometimes you even changed them if you saw fit to help the offense. Your attention to detail and preparation was the best that I have ever seen.

Mike, I truly loved you as a coach, but I more so love you now as a friend. Thank you for all you did for me he and that team.

It's not often you get coached by a guy that you idolized, but Wilbert Montgomery meant so much to me. It was such a pleasure to have him critiquing me it was like we saw the game of football through the same set of eyes, unbelievable.

When I would leave the football field, Wilbert would tell me exactly what I saw, and I felt like I had pretty darn good vision. For him to see it from the sideline made him special. Wilbert, thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for teaching me how to elevate my game beyond where you saw and where I saw I could go. I appreciate everything you did for me, Bert, I love you.

Every great team has a great owner. Georgia Frontiere, she was the best. I have to say to Georgia, thank you for showing us the good life. You treated us like rock stars, but frankly you treated us like we were your stars just shining bright. Ones that you were proud of. It was a pleasure to win a championship for you. Winning that championship for Georgia Frontiere, I got the same feeling that I get when I make my parents proud. That's how I felt when we won that championship in 2000.

John Shaw, Jay Zygmont, Clark Army, that was the front office. Thank you for taking a chance on me. You didn't know what you were getting when I left Indianapolis. You knew I was desperate to win, that was enough. The three of you together made that team special.

Dick Vermeil, I know you're here. Coach, this is going to sound strange because everyone knows you cry a lot. But in doing that, you were our rock. You were the pillar of strength for that team. You were a kind and gentle man, but you challenged me. You challenged me to be a better leader. Your insight on how to make people around me better was the most instinctive and intuitive advice that I received throughout my whole career.

You tried to make people around you better, and that's what I did. Once I learned how to do it and that it meant me doing more stuff than just carrying the football and gaining yards, I became a much better teammate. Thank you for that.

Stan Kroenke, if you've ever been around Stan, you know that his presence and his intelligence is impeccable, and I believe that that is important to the St. Louis Rams and with Stan and his people now in charge, can't wait for the day that we see the Rams back in the promised land.

We talk about promised land, and I believe getting an opportunity to play a professional sport at a high level is a promised land. I wouldn't be here if it was not for my family, especially Cecile Faulk, my mother. Achieving the success that I achieved would have been impossible without having strong family support.

Mom, thank you not only for your love, but your tough love. And you know what I mean by your tough love, mom.
The way you raised us, mom, it wasn't necessarily fair, but you were teaching us that in life sometimes things just are not fair. Thanks for teaching us the skills to take care of ourselves. Every person in my family knows how to cook, knows how to clean, knows how to wash clothes because of you. That's hard work.

Mom, it was also your commitment to get up every day to work two or three jobs, to ensure that we had, and, mom, thank you, because we had.

Cecile Faulk, I know I have your blood, your skin, even your good looks, but the one thing that I'm most proud of is acquiring your work ethic. Thank you for making me the man that I am today.

It was fun growing up in the Faulk household. I was the youngest of six, five older brothers. Kinzie, Ebenezer, Raymond, Rene, Joe, I learned so much from my brothers' experiences. Although they were good athletes, they didn't have athletic careers. They were only dreams to them. They weren't afforded the opportunity to live those dreams. Instead they helped to support, protect, and provide for our family. I learned what and what not to do from the things that they did.

Like we say in New Orleans, bro', you taught me so many life lessons. You guys have always been there for me, contributed greatly to the man that I am today. I thank you.

My whole career in the NFL you hear about my mom. Well, she didn't have me by herself. I rarely mention my late father Roosevelt Marshall who I loved dearly. He was so instrumental in my growth. As a kid, I spent summers working with my father delivery groceries to restaurants and clearing the bar that he partly owned. I watched how hard he worked each and every day from paycheck to paycheck, trying to get ahead in life. But his fun loving demeanor was never affected when he did not by the struggles of trying to get ahead. Working those two jobs made me strive for more out of life, and like my father, to remain unaffected by the circumstances around me.

Lindsay Faulk, thank you for being a great mother and for all the support that you've given me throughout my career. Your ability to deal with my complex demeanor and my crazy life is unparalleled. Thank you for all the times that you nursed me back to health of my many knee surgeries. Thank you for cooking for me. Thank you for waking me up when it was time to take pain medications. Thank you for loving me so hard. I wish that I could love as hard as you do.

I call my kids the Little Faulkers. So to the Little Faulkers, first I want to apologize for missing important activities in your life while chasing my dream of being a professional football player. It didn't always allow me to be there. I can honestly say I was not the best father I probably could have been. I missed many things that were important to you, like school activities, many sporting events, things so simple like just seeing you grow up on a daily basis.

But I want you to understand that those sacrifices I had to make in order to be a successful football player, even though I wasn't physically there every moment, nevertheless, I was always there in heart and spirit.

Just keep in mind that everything that I have done has been an attempt to leave a legacy for you. If you take anything away from this weekend, I would like it to be what you have noticed about the rest of the men on this stage doing what it took to fulfill a calling in life. Chase your dreams. Believe in yourselves. Stand by every decision you make. I am so very proud to be your father. I hope you're proud to call me dad.

I ask you to do one thing. I ask you to be the best that you can be and to live up to no one else's expectations but your own. I love you and I will always be there for you.

To my second family now, the NFL Network. Man, what a great job. What a great job. I have to say thank you to Eric Weinberger, Steve Bornstein for the opportunity to share my insight and knowledge of the game that I love.

I also have to give a very, very big thanks to all the behind the scenes people that make us look good each and every day. My game day morning crew. Warren Sapp, Rick Eisen, Steve Mariucci, Michael Irvin, thank you, guys, man. You guys have made the transition from on the field to behind the desk so much fun. I love working with each and every one of you.

To all my friends that are here. I have so many that are here. To the ones that are watching at home, I want to say thank you for your love, your support, your concern, thank you, thank you, thank you.

In closing I told you I was going to be long I told these guys I was going to be long. It's tough going from the projects to the penthouse.

Just a couple of lessons that I learned throughout my journey. They may apply to you, they may not. My first piece of advice to live life, don't let life live you. Next, my father told me this, if you ever traveled on a road with no speed bumps, you're headed for a dead end. But life's a challenge.

I'm always told how blessed I am to be talented enough to have played football. I say we're all blessed. God blessed everyone on this earth, but what we do with it is the blessing. It's in our hands to put that blessing in motion and living true to life as it is to me. God gave me talent. Football gave me an opportunity. I made the commitment. Thank you all.