Prince probably didn’t write 1999 with the St. Louis Rams in mind. He was always more of a basketball guy, anyway. But it turns out that in the sporting world, no one partied harder than that first incarnation of "The Greatest Show on Turf."
The first time I ever met Marshall Faulk was at Café Napoli in Clayton, two years after he retired from the NFL.
With apologies to Drew Magary, this ‘drunken hookup failure’ wasn’t the stuff of legends or worthy of a submission. It was a situation where I was talking to a girl (and she was probably was desperate to be anywhere but there at that moment) and Marshall decided he wanted to talk with her as well. I acquiesced politely, but to Faulk’s credit, he was a gentleman about the whole deal. Even shook my hand.
And like that, Faulk was gone. (Full disclaimer: he might have just left by himself…but I didn’t come across the girl ever again.)
For years I used to tell people that I knew what it was like to be an NFL defender because of that fleeting 30 seconds of interaction. The greatest running back I’ve ever seen in person wasn’t on my radar. But out of nowhere he came, destroyed me and was gone. He left me wondering just what the F happened while he bob’d n’ weaved in an end zone somewhere. Pretty much the modus operandi of #28 for his entire career.
On Saturday, Marshall Faulk was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was the first member of the 1999 Super Bowl winning team to be granted enshrinement, but most likely won’t be the last.
Acquired from the Indianapolis Colts during the off-season, Faulk was the first star the Rams had in St. Louis. The four seasons prior had brought the fans a healthy dose of June Jones and Tony Banks and a myriad of other players that the delusional amongst us would believe could compete in the NFL… and we really did believe. You know, until the games started.
His reputation had taken a beating his last season in Indy. Faulk was one of the first RB’s to realize that window of contract leverage for his position was shrinking at a much more rapid pace than any other in the NFL, and his petulance with the Colts was grating on the fanbase in Indianapolis. At the time of the trade, looking back, many people around the league didn’t think that the trade for draft picks was that terrible for the Colts. After all, Faulk’s best season had actually been his rookie campaign years earlier.
To Faulk’s credit, he’ll admit now that he wasn’t sure about a trade to St. Louis. He was intrigued about playing with Trent Green and optimistic that Orlando Pace would be a cornerstone of an offense, but still – the Rams had been amongst the worst teams in football the years prior, in one of a handful of towns that probably had less of a national profile than Indy.
The Rams, masterfully, played to the one thing that Faulk has always had in spades: EGO. No one loves Marshall like Marshall. And when ownership and management told 28 that this was HIS team and HE could do as HE pleased, and that the offense would run through HIM – well, he gave it a shot.
Now he’s in the Hall of Fame.
Some guys that fall in love with themselves can’t walk the walk. Faulk knew he had the talent and just needed someone to believe that he was the be-all end-all like he did. Stir in a little Mike Martz and – PRESTO – you’ve got a recipe for orgasmic football.
Marshall grabbed opportunity by the apple sack. And his play over the next six seasons could be called sensational, if sensational wasn’t an understatement. He was a match-up nightmare that will never be duplicated. A Pro-Bowl-caliber receiver that happened to be a Pro Bowl running back. No formation was out of bounds, no play-call was too obnoxious. The Rams were trying things in games that other teams wouldn't try then—wouldn't try ten years later—and won't try ever.
Faulk was the eye of the perfect storm.
Hell, he was the host of that 1999 party that’s still leaving St. Louis Rams fans hung-over. But just like a decade ago, maybe some things are best left to be romanticized. I don’t know if we could handle the 99’-’01 Rams in our internet culture today. The hyperbole would decimate Twitter. The ‘Touchdown Takedown’ promotion would bankrupt Domino’s. ESPN would have a collective stroke.
Marshall Faulk leaves something bigger than a Hall of Fame banner from the rafters of the Edwards Jones Dome.
He left us speechless.