Seasons to remember

Seasons to remember

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"There are no limitations to what Marshall does or can do. He wants to be the best in the game and he's proven he is." Those are the words of former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz about Class of 2011 enshrinee Marshall Faulk after the star running back was chosen as the National Football League's MVP in 2000.

It is hard to argue with Martz when looking at Faulk's accomplishments on the football field. Following his MVP performance the San Diego State alum was in the middle of what is arguably the greatest three-year stretch by a player in NFL history. Anyone who had Faulk on their fantasy football team would tell you that he carried their make-believe football team just as he carried the Rams.

From 1999 through 2001 Faulk accumulated an impressive 4,122 rushing yards on 766 carries and 37 touchdowns. He also doubled as a major receiving threat as he added 251 receptions for 2,643 yards and 22 TDs during that period. Looking at those numbers it is quite evident that Faulk was an integral ingredient of the Rams' wide open offense that will forever be known as "The Greatest Show on Turf."

Not surprisingly, the Rams compiled a 37-11 regular season record during that same three-year span. St. Louis reached the playoffs each year and made two Super Bowl appearances including their victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. Along the way, Faulk added a lot of hardware to his trophy case. He earned the Associated Press Offensive Player of the Year Award in each of those seasons to compliment the league MVP honor in 2000. The Sporting News tabbed him as the NFL Player of the Year in 2000 and 2001.

Faulk began his tenure with the Rams in 1999 after five years with the Indianapolis Colts (1994-98). He registered four 1,000-yard seasons and earned three Pro Bowl nods during his days with the Colts. Incredibly Indianapolis traded Faulk for only a second- and fifth round choice in the 1999 NFL Draft. The price seemed low to many as Faulk had just completed the best season of his career when he led the NFL in total yards from scrimmage (2,227). Yet he was expendable in the Colts eyes in part because Faulk wanted to renegotiate his contract. With a talented group of ball-carriers coming out of the college ranks, Indianapolis felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger on a deal.

Faulk was surprised when he learned how little he was dealt for but eventually accepted the trade to the Rams.

"I think I'm worth more, I really feel and believe I am," Faulk stated to reporters after he arrived in St. Louis. "But that's what happens. If you can get anything cheaper or for less, you do it, that's the American way."

The 1998 Rams had a dismal 4-12 season along with a noticeable void at running back. They finished the season ranked 29th in the league in team rushing and their top ground-gainer June Henley contributed only 313 yards. The addition of Faulk generated a great deal of excitement with the team and the fans.

During the 1999 preseason however, St. Louis was dealt a huge blow when Trent Green, the team's highly-touted free agent quarterback, suffered a season-ending knee injury. Faulk's combination of speed, power, and elusiveness were all of a sudden needed more than ever. Luckily for Faulk and the Rams a diamond in the rough named Kurt Warner was waiting in the wings to take over for the fallen QB.

Faulk, Warner and the rest of the Rams would go on to shock the pro football world with one of the most dominant seasons in NFL history. The team improved to a 13-3 record and galloped through the postseason to earn the franchise's first Super Bowl championship. Faulk set career highs at the time for rushing yards (1,381); yards per gain (5.5); receptions (87); receiving yards (1,048); yards per catch (12.0) and receiving TDs (5). Not impressive enough? He also set a new league standard with 2,429 yards from scrimmage and became only the second running back in NFL history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in both rushing and receiving during the same season. He finished second in the Associated Press' league MVP voting to his teammate Warner. The quarterback, however, seemed more in awe of Faulk's abilities during the season than his own accomplishments.

"The way he sees the field and understands what teams are trying to do to us, to me he's like a quarterback," Warner commented. "Everything I'm seeing, he's seeing."

Most players would crumble under the pressure to repeat such a great single-season performance. Not Faulk. He raised the bar in 2000 with an MVP performance while setting the then NFL record for most touchdowns in a season with 26. Incredibly he scored 12 of those TDs in just three games to become the only player in NFL history to score four TDs on three occasions during a season. His efforts also came during the most critical moments of the season when the Rams were struggling late in the year to make the playoffs. Faulk single-handedly lifted the team to the postseason with 79 carries for 434 yards and 9 TDs on top of 17 receptions for 173 yards and 2 TDs during the final three weeks of the year. Faulk and the Rams earned a Wild Card berth. Unfortunately, the team fell short of repeating as Super Bowl champions when they lost to the New Orleans Saints in the first week of postseason play.

Lighting up the NFL
Take a closer look at how Marshall Faulk tore up the NFL from 1999-2001. Stats>>>
Amazingly, the 2001 season was more of the same for Faulk. He posted a career high in rushing yardage (1,382) coupled with 12 rushing TDs and 83 receptions for 765 yards and 9 TDs. His performance almost earned him a second straight MVP nod but he again finished second to Warner in the AP's voting. The NFL record book also included more notations of Faulk's high-level performance; he became the first player in history to gain 2,000 or more yards from scrimmage in four consecutive seasons. The performance again helped guide St. Louis back to the postseason where the team eventually fell to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI.

After that incredible three-year run, it did not take a rocket scientist to determine that Faulk was a vital component to the Rams organization. As was the case, the team offered him a seven-year contract after the 2001 season that would enable him to finish his playing days with the franchise.

"We want to make sure Marshall finishes his career as a Ram," stated coach Martz after the signing. "The impact he's had not just on this team but this entire organization is pretty extreme."

Extreme may be putting it mildly. One thing is for sure, the impact Faulk had on the Rams will forever be remembered with his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
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