Rabalais: Alan Faneca Achieves Lengthy-awaited Aim of Professional Soccer Corridor of Fame | LSU
Alan Faneca was always a goal-oriented person, even if he didn’t know it.
As a player, he would open a new notebook before each season and fill it with fixtures, games, tips, things to improve and definitely things to avoid.
Or, prophetically, places he wanted to visit.
During his rookie season as guard for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Faneca traveled with the team to Canton, Ohio, to play the annual preseason game in the Hall of Fame. There Faneca visited the hall where his bust is being kept this weekend.
Not long after that, Faneca wrote these words in one of these notebooks, setting himself a long-term goal that he never knew he could achieve:
“Do the YARD”
“It has always been a goal,” Faneca told WTKR in Norfolk, Virginia, near where he now lives and coaches high school football in Virginia Beach. “But before that I had several goals that I had to achieve. There was always something in the distance that shoots for the stars and sees where you land.
“I landed in the stars. It’s pretty amazing. “
Even more amazing, considering soccer, was something Faneca feared they would have to give up as a teenager.
Born in New Orleans in 1976, Faneca played football at John Curtis High School for four years before moving to Rosenberg, Texas, southwest of Houston, where he completed his preparatory career at Lamar Consolidated High School.
When he was 15, Faneca was diagnosed with epilepsy, which put his football future into question.
“It was Christmas Eve my freshman year in high school,” Faneca said. “We were with my great-grandmother for a big family celebration. I didn’t know it was a fit. I was wondering around the house, crying, not knowing what had happened. Then I had another and another. “
Months of testing followed, a dark period in Faneca’s young life. Eventually, his doctor prescribed medication that controlled the seizures and allowed him to continue playing.
“He said it so quickly that I could keep playing, I asked him again,” said Faneca. “I said, ‘Doc, you know what football is, don’t you?’
“I took that and ran.”
Faneca became a great contestant, named Greater Houston Offensive Player of the Year by the Houston Touchdown Club in 1993. He signed with LSU in 1994 and was waiting at the end of his red shirt season when former LSU coach Gerry DiNardo arrived.
DiNardo, himself an All-American Guard in Notre Dame, recognized the talent he had inherited from the staff of former coach Curley Hallman.
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“He had great feet, as they say,” said DiNardo. “He learned to play the game with great posture. Hips lower than his shoulders, flapping at the height. The technical things that he was really good at.
“As a teammate, he was one of the most popular guys. Very famous. Had a lot of close friends. “
Faneca received All-SEC and All-American honors as junior and senior, and was also an Outland Trophy finalist in his senior year. Faced with a more monumental decision at the time that it is today, Faneca decided to forego his senior year after the 1997 season. He was the first LSU player to go pro early, while Kevin Faulk, for whom Faneca had opened holes in their three seasons together, decided to stay.
“They both made great decisions,” said DiNardo.
Faulk eventually won three Super Bowls with the New England Patriots. Faneca won a Super Bowl XL title with the Steelers after the 2005 season and was the key block to bring Willie Parker to a 21:10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in his crucial 75-yard touchdown run.
It was a Hall of Fame moment in a Hall of Fame worthy career. In 13 seasons, Faneca started 201 out of 206 career games (he was fined 29 total times, only four for holding) and is one of five Guardians in NFL history to have won six All-Pro awards. Former Steelers trainer Bill Cowher called Faneca the heart and soul of Pittsburgh’s line of defense.
After Faneca retired with the Arizona Cardinals in 2010 after two years with the New York Jets, he started running and lost weight dramatically. Within three years of retirement, he lost about 100 pounds from his playing weight of 322 and completed a marathon under four hours.
Another goal achieved.
The Fanecas moved to Virginia Beach, where Alan’s wife, Julie, is from (they met during their early years at LSU), though they never quite shook their Louisiana ties. When the call came from the hall, the Fanecas celebrated with lobster and champagne.
Faneca eventually turned to coaching. He spent two seasons as an assistant coach at the Potomac School in McLean, Virginia, then the last two seasons as an offensive linemen coach at Cox High School in Virginia Beach. In May, Faneca was named head coach at Cox, replacing a man named Bill Stachelski, the most successful soccer coach in school history.
A challenge, maybe, but Stachelski doesn’t have a gold Pro Football Hall of Fame jacket.
Faneca got this jacket on Friday evening at a ceremony in Canton. He was supposed to be introduced by former Steelers teammate Hines Ward at Saturday’s inauguration ceremony. Faneca invited DiNardo to attend the event as one of its guests.
“I felt really good about that,” said DiNardo. “You never know how former players feel about you.
“I just think the world of him.”
Now the world is reminded of what a quiet, excellent player Faneca was. A gamer who achieved this notebook goal a long time ago.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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