New England Patriots fans Tuesday witnessed the retirement of one of those players who will never go down in the stat books as one of the greatest players, but he achieved something that is even harder to reach: the deep admiration and hard-earned respect of the team’s fans.
Kevin Faulk was a highly skilled halfback, often used as a “third down back.” In football parlance, that’s a ball carrier who can be depended upon to do whatever may be needed — running, catching, blocking or trick plays — to keep the team moving down the field on third down situations. It’s one of the most difficult positions in the sport, due to the multiple levels of talent the player is required to have.
For 13 seasons, Kevin Faulk was the go-to guy when the Patriots needed someone to keep the drive alive, particularly when the game was on the line. Tough, skilled, smart and most of all dependable, Faulk could be entrusted to get the job done better than anyone else the Patriots had ever employed at that position. When No. 33 was sent onto the field, New England fans knew to expect an extraordinary effort, and perhaps even something that would amaze them.
Despite his obvious talent, Faulk never made it into the elite club of athletes. He certainly didn’t have the ego for it. Humble and earnest, he did his job with workmanlike skill. He is cut from the same cloth as Troy Brown, another Patriot who won over fans’ hearts and loyalties with hard work, broad talent and humility.
Patriots coach Bill Belichick, known for instilling the “Patriot Way” mentality of team-focused play, paid Faulk what is probably the best compliment that can come from the coach. He called Faulk the “ultimate team player.”
“He always put the team first, he always played hard and always knew what to do,” Belichick said.
Faulk held a brief retirement press conference Tuesday, exhibiting the humility and honesty that he’s been known for. As tears streaked down his face, he credited his mother, who died in 2004, with giving him the courage and strength to pursue his football career.
It wasn’t the face of your typical gridiron tough guy, it was the real face of a man who grew up in hardship and worked to make something of himself, and was thankful for what he had achieved.