Super Bowl-winning guard and tackle Alan Faneca is a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for a fifth time this year and should finally be set to take his place among the game’s elite in Canton.
The Pittsburgh Steelers great racked up first-team All Pro and Pro Bowl recognitions in his 13-year career, which also saw him turn out for the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.
During that time, he started 201 of his 206 career games played, recovering 11 fumbles in the process, and helped protect passers and create running lanes for current and future Hall of Famers.
Faneca’s nine Pro Bowl and six first-team All-Pro awards are also accompanied by a slot on the NFL’s team of the decade for the 2000s and recognition as part of the Steelers’ All-Time team.
So why should the 43-year-old receive his Gold Jacket as part of this year’s Hall of Fame class?
Overcoming early struggles
Despite winning the Mean Joe Greene top rookie award after being drafted in the first round of the 1998 draft, Faneca struggled to make his mark in the early going.
But he was able to show the talent that made him the Steelers’ top pick in a 1999 clash with the Bengals, during which he helped Jerome Bettis to his first 100-yard game of the season. He also set up the running back for a 137-yard rushing performance against the Panthers in the same year.
It was the 2000 season that really saw him step up, helping the Steelers to the fourth ranking rushing side in the league – one of just ten sides to reach more than 2,000 yards rushing.
And his top-level performances continued from there, including a switch from left guard to tackle.
His most famous play came on the biggest stage of them all.
Having played an instrumental role in getting the Steelers to Super Bowl 40, played in Detroit, Faneca came up big to set up ‘Fast’ Willie Parker for a 75-yard touchdown – the longest run in Super Bowl history.
Describing his vital block to open up the rushing lane for Parker, Faneca has joked it was the ‘only block I’ve every thrown’ as the Steelers beat the Seahawks 21-10.
Those who know him best
It is sometimes difficult to quantify that which makes an offensive lineman so special – the position is a hugely selfless one, taking the hits so skill players should not have to.
That has led to him being highly revered by those who played with him and against him.
Former team-mate Bettis has already entered the Hall of Fame, taking the opportunity to thank five men who had the biggest impact on his career
And Faneca was the first he thanked.
Speaking about that decision, Bettis told Steelers.com: “I mentioned Alan because he was an elite offensive lineman, one of the best I ever played with.
“He is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame because of his exceptional play and his extended length of greatness. Alan was critical to my career, he is one of the biggest reasons that I wear a Gold Jacket today.”
Another Hall of Fame Steeler, centre Dermontti Dawson added: “Alan is more than deserving to be in the Hall of Fame. I told him I knew he was going to be a good player from the first time he came in as a rookie.”
Of course, Championship rings are not a guarantee of Hall of Fame quality – but regular All-Pro recognition and Pro Bowl appearances are a key indicator to what was a career filled with consistent high-level performances.
Faneca was a key cog in the 2005 season Super Bowl win and went on to be a vital part of one of the Jets’ last truly successful teams, helping them to the 2009 AFC Championship game.
And it is not just his career performances, but his impact on team mates’ careers.
Bettis had four straight 1,000 yard-plus seasons while playing with Faneca, Parker notched up three consecutive 1,000 yard-plus seasons, Jets running back Thomas Jones had two 1000-plus yard seasons with him.
The consistency across seasons and teams is why Faneca is amongst the most deserving of this year’s finalists to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.