Kevin Faulk enters Patriots Hall of Fame, gets surprise from Tom Brady

  • New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, right, signs autographs for fans following an NFL football training camp practice Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, center, wears a Kevin Faulk jersey while speaking during a Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony for Faulk, right, at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. Faulk was a running back for the Patriots. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, left, removes his helmet during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, center, walks on the field in front of punter Ryan Allen, left, and kicker Stephen Gostkowski, right, during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo (10), left, falls back to pass after faking a hand off to running back Donald Brown, right, during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) winds up for a pass during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots tight end A.J. Derby (86) makes a catch during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterbacks Tom Brady (12) Jimmy Garoppolo (10) and Jacoby Brissett (7) warm up on the field during an NFL football training camp practice, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Former NFL football running back Kevin Faulk, center, is welcomed by members of the audience as he arrives for his New England Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, left, embraces former NFL football running back Kevin Faulk during ceremonies held to induct Faulk into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • Former NFL football running back Kevin Faulk is tearful while speaking as he is inducted into the New England Patriots Hall of Fame during ceremonies at Gillette Stadium, Monday, Aug. 1, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

  • New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady waves and smiles toward fans as he steps on the field before an NFL football training camp practice Sunday, July 31, 2016, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne) Steven Senne

For the Gazette
Published: 8/1/2016 9:45:48 PM

FOXBOROUGH — Kevin Faulk said the key to his long career with the Patriots was that he always knew what Tom Brady was thinking.

That mind helped Faulk, New England’s longtime, go-to third-down running back, earn three Super Bowl rings and induction on Monday into the Patriots Hall of Fame.

His insight into Brady’s thinking, did not, however, prepare him for the quarterback’s big surprise. Brady, who hasn’t spoken publicly during training camp, made an appearance at the end of Faulk’s induction ceremony and unzipped his warmup jacket to reveal Faulk’s No. 33 jersey. The tribute was a nod to one that Faulk made at the NFL Draft in April, when Faulk wore Brady’s No. 12 a few days after the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated Brady’s suspension.

“Respect … that’s what that was to me,” an emotional Faulk said after the ceremony. “Respecting me as an individual, respecting the thing that I did and showing that.”

Faulk’s 13-year career with the Patriots was worthy of considerable respect. A holdover from the Pete Carroll era, Faulk was selected out of Louisiana State in the second round of 1999 draft. He had a lot to prove when Bill Belichick took over as head coach in 2000, but developed into a dynamic role player emblematic of Belichick’s core philosophy. He worked hard, he adapted and did whatever the Patriots needed him to do.

Similar in a lot of ways to former Pats receiver Troy Brown, Faulk has more unforgettable moments than he does unforgettable stats. He never rushed for more than 638 yards in a season and only had two seasons with more than 1,000 yards from scrimmage. But Faulk remained an important figure in the Pats’ backfield for 13 seasons (an eternity in the NFL, especially at the running back position).

Faulk always seemed to deliver key third-down yardage, and had multiple 2-point conversions in postseason games, including one against the Carolina Panthers that helped seal a win in Super Bowl 38.

“The 2-point play against Carolina was a huge play,” Belichick said. “It was the only time he scored all year. Kevin didn’t have a lot of touchdowns. He wasn’t a big scorer. He was a third down (converter) and a returner. More of a situational player.”

But Faulk continuously shined in those situations, which is how he kept a roster spot for as long as he did.

“So many of his plays were just third-and-6 and he got 7, third-and-4 and he got 5,” Belichick said. “Third-and-3 and he got 4. He just had a great knack, like Troy did, a very instinctive player, great knack for playing the game, always seemed to do the right thing.”

Things didn’t start out so well for Faulk. While he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time — his seamless contributions grew out of continuous development — he was in danger of being cut several times during is his first two seasons.

Former teammate Ty Law told a story on Monday in which Law and some teammates took the rookie out to Parente’s, a restaurant in Smithfield, Rhode Island, near the Pats’ former training camp at Bryant University. Law and the other veterans convinced Faulk to match them shot for shot while playing games of Golden Tee after practice.

It turned out Faulk was the only player drinking alcohol. His teammates didn’t tell the rookie they were drinking shots of water. The next morning Faulk failed to show up for practice. Law went and found him passed out and hung over in his room. Law told Carroll that he was to blame for the rookie missing practice and convinced the coach not to cut Faulk.

In his second season, Faulk had two key issues to overcome so he could find a place on Belichick’s roster — blitz protection and ball security.

Faulk fumbled six times in his second season, but got progressively better at ball security, losing the ball only four times in his last six seasons. When Faulk scored the winning touchdown against the then-undefeated Colts in 2007 (a crucial win in New England’s 16-0 regular season), the ball came loose after Faulk crossed the plane. It wasn’t a fumble, but even the momentary separation from the ball caught the notice of his legendary coach.

“Great job,” Belichick told him with a pat on the back. “But hold on to the (expletive) ball.”

Faulk said Patriots offensive line guru Dante Scarnecchia helped him develop his skills in blitz pickup, something he’d never had to do in college. That became another crucial asset that made him into what Bob Kraft described as the team’s “Swiss-Army Knife.”

“If it wasn’t for Dante, I wouldn’t be here after Year No. 2,” Faulk said. “He stayed with me each and every day after practice working on blitz pickup, and one thing I realized with blitz pickup all you got to do is just hit ’em one time and grab their jersey and hold them real well.”




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