Marshall Faulk Retires: The Man Who Changed The Running Back Position
In the late 80’s and early 90’s, the NFL was being dominated by the powerful, bruising running backs of the day. Teams were winning football games by using their running backs to carry the ball 35-45 times, and hitting their wide receivers down-field when the opponent moved more players “into the box” to stop the run.
Running backs such as Emmitt Smith and Thurman Thomas were piling up the yards in these types of offenses. Then in the early 90’s there was a player by the name of Marshall Faulk playing for small San Diego State University in the college game.
He put up 386 yards in one of his college games on the ground as a running back. The difference though was, he also showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. This ability interested the Indianapolis Colts enough that they took him with the number two pick in the 1994 NFL Draft. That was the year Cincinnati made yet another mistake drafting Dan Wilkinson in the number one spot in the draft instead of Faulk.
Considering Faulk has announced his retirement, we can look back at the two players careers up to now, and realize Faulk clearly was the better choice.
Faulk made an immediate impact on the Colts offense as he accumulated 1,282 yards rushing in his first season along with 522 receiving yards on 52 receptions out of the backfield. He reached the end zone twelve times that season on the ground, and once on a reception as he won the NFL Rookie Of The Year Award. Faulk was a key contributor to the Colts offense throughout his years there.
He proved with his elusive maneuvering that he was tough to bring down in the open field, to take advantage of this the Colts continued to use him in their passing offense as a receiver. From 1994 through 1998 Faulk rushed for over 1,000 yards in four of his five seasons in Indianapolis, he averaged almost 60 receptions per season on top of that for an average of over 600 yards receiving each year.
While he was a dominant running back in Indianapolis, he will be known best for what he did after he was traded to the St. Louis Rams after the 1998 season, and teamed up with Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, and Torry Holt to form “The Greatest Show On Turf”.
In his first season with St. Louis, Faulk led the team to the Super Bowl championship. Despite all the weapons the team had available it was clear Faulk was the key. He contributed over 1,000 yards each rushing and receiving that year.
He scored 18 times on the ground and caught five touchdown passes. He was clearly the class of the NFL running backs. He rushed for over 1,300 each of his next two seasons, as a matter of fact he averaged between 5.3 and 5.5 yards per carry in each of his first three seasons in St. Louis.
He truly brought around the transition to the dual threat running backs that offenses crave in those first three seasons with the Rams. In addition to his impressive rushing totals those first three years in St. Louis he averaged 83 receptions per year for an average of 710 yards receiving per year over that span. In those three years he only fumbled five times.
After leading the Rams to their second Super Bowl in three seasons, injuries started to take their toll over the next three years. Faulk never rushed for over 1,000 yards again, but he had influenced the role of the running back position in the NFL greatly.
Starting in 2001, another running back by the name of Priest Holmes fit into the same type of role Faulk had with St. Louis for the Kansas City Chiefs. Without Faulk’s performance over the past decade, Holmes might have never seen the success he did with the Chiefs. Running backs such as Kevan Barlow, Brian Westbrook, Edgerrin James, and Reggie Bush owe Faulk quite a lot of thanks for revolutionizing the position.
He was the player that transformed the running back from the power bruising back mold to the multi-talented role of the running backs of today.