When it comes to rushing and receiving dual-threats among running backs, Marshall Faulk is one of the greatest ever, and perhaps the greatest ever. That's a brash statement to make when do-it-all receivers go back to the days of Chuck Foreman and through to guys like Roger Craig and Walter Payton to Chris Johnson today. Faulk has managed to put together ridiculous numbers like these: 12,279 yards rushing, 6,875 yards receiving, 19,154 yards from scrimmage, and an amazing 767 receptions -- 24th all-time among all players, and more than actual receivers like James Lofton, Michael Irvin and Charlie Joiner. In this exclusive interview, Faulk talked with Shutdown Corner about his NFL career, his current job with the NFL Network, and the "Take It to the House" and "Play 60" initiatives he's part of in conjunction with Procter & Gamble and the NFL.
Shutdown Corner: Not that San Diego State wasn't a big deal -- and you helped San Diego State become a big deal -- but were you recruited by bigger schools? Why did you go there?
Marshall Faulk: I was recruited by other schools, but San Diego was a place I wanted to live, as I do now, and I felt that what they were going to allow me to do in the position I was going to play was what I wanted to do.
SC: You had a very productive career with the Colts, but there were some contract issues near the end there. Were you surprised that you were traded to the Rams?
MF: No, not at all. I knew it was coming, and I kind of expected it because of the direction the team was going.
SC: So, you go to the Rams, and become the pointman for the "Greatest Show on Turf" offense. I wanted to ask you about (former Rams offensive coordinator and head coach and current Bears offensive coordinator) Mike Martz -- he's frequently criticized for the protection breakdowns in his offenses, but the Rams didn't seem to have those issues. At what point does that become more about personnel than scheme?
MF: I can't blame it all on personnel. It's up to what you want to do and what you want to get accomplished, and that's about the quarterback. [Rams quarterback] Kurt [Warner] got hit, and he experienced getting hit when he wanted to by holding on to the football -- if you hold on to the football, you are going to get hit in the NFL. In that offense, you need to let it go, because there's always an opportunity ... a hot read of some sort. You can get rid of it, but some guys just hold on.
SC: What was Dick Vermeil like as a coach and as a motivator?
MF: Dick was a very good head coach and a great motivator. When you talk about him as a head coach, the thing that sticks out is his ability to be flexible -- he understood that some changes needed to be made, and he was willing to make them for the good of the team. Bringing in Mike Martz and doing other things he did when I was there with him.
SC: It could be argued that when you factor in total yards from scrimmage, the stretch you had from 1998 through 2001 was as productive a four-year stretch as any back has ever had in the NFL. Did you have the sense at the time that you were really on to something special, and how special that was?
MF: No, I was just enjoying playing the game -- having fun and just winning. I didn't look that much at stats -- I was more about victories and how we were doing as a team. The team goals last much longer.
MF: I don't know what Kurt was like before [he played with the Rams], but I think his time in the Arena Football League really helped him get rid of the ball and throw it into tight spaces. He was great at that -- a great leader, and he distributed the ball to the open guy -- he didn't latch on to one receiver, and that really helped our offense out. We already had a bunch of guys who weren't selfish, and with that, it was a lot easier playing with Kurt.
SC: You were in two of the most competitive Super Bowls ever. What was it like to win that first one?
MF: It was definitely a thrill -- I would consider it the highlight of my career. Very exciting, and it's a game I enjoy watching to this day.
SC: You were an interesting hybrid player in that you went beyond the normal rushing/receiving threat -- many people say that you could have made the NFL purely as a receiver. Where did you develop those specific skills?
MF: I wish I could make a big deal out of it, but it was just that way. It's funny to think of it, and just to say, ‘I was able to catch the ball,' but there are some guys who just cannot catch the football. But I don't understand why -- I mean, who didn't play pitch and catch when they were kids? And if you look at it like that, that's all it ever is.
SC: Is there a player today that reminds you of you?
MF: Not really. There aren't a lot of guys who are full-service players. A lot of guys are splitting time, and there aren't a lot of players who play every down anymore.
SC: What is it like working as an analyst on the NFL Network?
MF: It's fun -- I work with a great group of guys. The producers, directors and all the people over there. We have a great time showcasing the NFL and being advocates for how well the players are playing ... and sometimes, how well they're not playing.
SC: The Rams have come up from a number of dark years, and they're really looking good with rookie quarterback Sam Bradford(notes) and a series of smart roster moves. What's your take on the future of your old team?
MF: My take on Sam is that it's not so much on the field as off the field. The guys in the locker room believe in him, and they're willing to follow him, and allow him to be their leader. And the kid is doing something right, because when you're young, you have to lead by example -- you don't have a lot of experience. He's put forth the effort, and you can tell that the team is rallying around him. I'm excited for them as a team. They've done a great job revamping the roster and they're getting a lot more out of their defense. A lot of those picks that were questionable -- especially [defensive end] Chris Long(notes) -- are turning the corner and playing well.
SC: What's your involvement in the P & G "Take It to the House" program?
MF: P & G came up with a great initiative for fans to show how they spend their Sundays and Mondays watching football. Fans can go the Facebook "Take It to the House" page, and post a picture of their families and exactly how they do it. The first eight winners get a meet-and-greet with a legendary NFL player -- that's my involvement -- and they also get a $10,000 donation to a local school, plus P & G products. Those first eight get their names put into another contest where one name will be picked by P & G to win a trip to the 2011 Pro Bowl.
SC: Could you tell us about your involvement in the NFL's "Play 60" program?
MF: P & G has partnered with the NFL in the "Play 60" initiative to help keep kids active, understanding that 60 minutes a day of activity really helps counteract a lot of things that are going on with today's kids -- especially the whole video-game epidemic we have, where kids don't even want to go outside.