Kevin Faulk never played in a Pro Bowl. He never ran for 1,000 yards. Hell, he never ran for 700 yards. He was a third-down back, not a three-down back. He was a niche guy whose game was predicated on nuance. Yet ,Kevin Faulk will go into the Patriots Hall of Fame in August. You’re free to disagree based on Faulk’s production numbers but, like his game, his candidacy depended on people getting the nuance.
You had to watch him every week to understand his hidden impact. If he carried seven times for 21 yards, you could bet a couple of those were third-and-4 draws on which he picked up 5. If he caught two balls for 12, at least one of them came when Tom Brady knew the only place he’d be going on that throw was to Faulk because he could trust him to make a play.
I remember games where the entire team played as if it had a trickle going down its leg except for Faulk. And he’d rip off a spinning, juking, something-out-of-nothing run that showed everyone that at least one Patriot wasn’t mailing it in that day. A team hall of fame is precisely the place where nuance and hidden impact are to be appreciated and celebrated. And the voters got that. How much bounce did Faulk’s PHOF candidacy get because of his “Free Brady” at the draft last month? Probably a lot. What are the chances Faulk did that to curry favor with the voters? None.
Faulk, like Troy Brown before him, was an institution. An artifact as well. Drafted by Pete Carroll and Bobby Grier in 1999, Faulk was a leery, not-so-warm kid from Louisiana that first year. The Patriots made him their lead back in 2000 when Bill Belichick got to town and – even though he was ill-suited for the role because he wasn’t real big or blessed with breakaway speed, he grinded away.
He made it through a spate of fumbles that had us all checking the waiver wire for a time in 2000 and settled into the third-down back role. Faulk didn’t seem to let his guard down, though, for several years. It wasn’t until around 2006 that we began to see a more open, less-wary guy in the locker room.
Born and bred in Louisiana, it’s no surprise in hindsight that it took a while. What is surprising is the sea-change we saw in Faulk as he became a more vocal leader. He embraced the role of mentor. He warmed to the job of speaking the team’s mind with the media. His personality came out to the point where what we saw Faulk pull in Chicago made perfect sense. He takes his relationships with this team and this region seriously, but he doesn’t take himself seriously. And he’s not going to bend a knee to the league to preserve future relations with the rich and powerful. He’s authentic.
Kevin Faulk isn’t going to be the best player in the Patriots Hall of Fame. But he’ll be as good a Patriot as ever gets inducted.