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Hall of Fame 'Knocks': Faneca, the Quiet Man

Hall of Fame 'Knocks': Faneca, the Quiet Man

02/12/2021
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By George Veras
Executive Producer, Pro Football Hall of Fame

First-person on-site accounts of the Class of 2021 Pro Football Hall of Fame “Knocks on the Door.”

John Wayne starred in “The Quiet Man,” a John Ford classic, in 1952. After accidentally killing an opponent in the ring, boxer Sean Thornton (Wayne) leaves America and returns to his native Ireland, hoping to buy his family's homestead and live in peace. In doing so, he runs afoul of Will Danaher (Victor McLaglen), who long coveted the property. Spitefully, Will objects when his fiery sister, Mary Kate (Maureen O'Hara), begins a romance with Sean and refuses to hand over her dowry. Mary Kate refuses to consummate the marriage until Sean retrieves the money.

Wayne’s script is sparse in the movie; he actions speak volumes.

That is how Alan Faneca looked and acted when David Baker went directly to his door, the first “Knock” of Day 2, after Peyton Manning and Calvin Johnson.

It is well known that Faneca shed much of his football playing weight, running in marathons. His thick brown-blonde hair looks “Hollywood,” but there is no makeup – and no need for it. Bright teeth and a calm smile that rarely differs.

We were expecting – after six years as a Finalist – a hint of disappointment in his emotions. If it was there, it was not on the surface.

Kind and cordial, Alan came out with a long-sleeved shirt, jeans and what looked like old-fashioned clompers – Dutch wooden shoes, not fancy sneakers with streaks of color. He went to high school in Texas, played collegiately at LSU and was the 26th pick in the first round for the Steelers in 1998.

He met his wife, Julie, at LSU, and they live in her home state of Virginia. She stood behind him in the doorway; she had been our “insider” and did a magnificent job. As Hall of Fame President and CEO David Baker approached the house, neighbors came out from across the street. We told them to keep the knock confidential. No need; they had been briefed.

As Baker was walking to the door, five other family members, who had driven five hours for the moment, scurried carefully past him without a word, just a wave. Kids as well.

It was chilly in Virginia, and in that brief moment outside, Alan was as humble and even-toned as John Wayne. No tears, the smile the same. He didn’t dwell on the wait, clearly absorbing the moment.

He had heard what Baker said to other Hall of Famers from the “Knock” videos and was like the great, disciplined offensive lineman whom Jerome Bettis called “the best ever” to play the position. When asked later about what Hall of Fame teammates he was looking forward to being with, Alan said, “Jerome Bettis.” When prodded for others, he responded, “Troy Palomalu.”

Julie was letting Alan be Alan and beaming with pride and relief. Their children came out, and from Baker’s pockets he gave them a Hall of Fame pin. “If I give you this, you must promise to lead a Hall of Fame life of integrity every day and wear the pin every day to get this. Do you agree?” Four angelic faces looked up to the giant of inspiration and nodded solemnly as their parents nodded in agreement.

Don’t underestimate Alan. He will think it through, like football reps, and by the time he gets to Canton, he’ll be ready to grab the Gold Jacket platform for his family and for his love of the game.

Watch Alan Faneca's "Knock"

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