INDIANAPOLIS – One arrived from the Rams in a 1987 blockbuster trade and one arrived as the 1994 draft’s second pick before departing for the Rams, but Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk each spent five noteworthy seasons with the Colts that helped solidify them places in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Those seasons with Indianapolis – 1987-91 for Dickerson; 1994-98 for Faulk – now have earned them enshrinement in the Colts Ring of Honor.
Owner and CEO Jim Irsay, who triggered the trade for Dickerson and oversaw the drafting of Faulk, welcomes them Sunday as they become the 10th and 11th inductees honored by the Colts.
“For me, it means a lot,” said Dickerson. “I played in Indianapolis for four years. We had some good teams there, some really good teams, some great guys. This is an honor for me, really it is.
“For any player, especially for me, when you play for a team, you hope you do something that is pivotal for that team so that one day they will honor you for your playing career. I’ve been out of the league for so long. When you get to be my age (53), there are not a lot of honors left, except that white robe, hopefully, some day (laughs).”
“It means a lot,” said Faulk. “I’m always reminded of being drafted second overall by the Irsay family, and Bill Tobin believing in a kid coming out of college and giving me a chance to live my dream. It’s just awesome. I cherish my time there. That was 1994 and almost 20 years later to be recognized by the organization, it’s a great feeling.”
Irsay landed Dickerson on October 31, 1987 in a blockbuster trade involving the Rams and Buffalo that sent Cornelius Bennett (the Colts’ top pick that year) to the Bills and six draft picks and two players to Los Angeles.
Dickerson arrived having topped the NFL with 1,808, 2,105 and 1,821 rushing yards in 1983, 1984 and 1986, and he added a fourth crown in Indianapolis with 1,659 yards in 1988.
Dickerson earned three of his six Pro Bowl honors (1983-84, 86-89) with the Colts, as well as two of his five All-Pro selections (1983-84, 86-88).
In 61 games for the Colts, Dickerson had 1,258 rushes for 5,194 yards and 32 touchdowns, along with 138 receptions for 1,082 yards and three scores. He retired after the 1993 season having played also for Oakland and Atlanta and had 13,259 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns.
“He had the full package,” said Albert Bentley, who started before Dickerson’s arrival and shared time afterward. “Part of what makes you a great running back is speed, agility and vision. He had all three. Eric could put it together very well.
“He was a smart player on top of that. Eric just had all the tools to be a great player in the NFL.”
Dickerson was the second Colt to win a rushing title (Alan Ameche, 1955). He remembers that 1988 title season vividly.
“It showed the quality of team we had and the kind of player I was. That’s the biggest part of it. I’ve always said football is the ultimate team sport. No matter who you are, you have to depend on every guy on every play. It’s such a team sport.”
Dickerson left the Colts after the 1991 season. Faulk arrived in 1994 and continued a franchise rushing heritage that also included Lenny Moore and Lydell Mitchell.
Mitchell (5,487), Faulk (5,320), Dickerson (5,194) and Moore (5,174) all topped 5,000 rushing yards with the franchise. Edgerrin James (9,226) eventually passed them as the Colts stand as one of five teams with five 5,000-yard rushers.
Faulk became the seventh league player to debut a career with consecutive 100-yard games, and his totals (1,282 rushing yards; 1,804 scrimmage yards; 12 TDs) led him to consensus NFL Offensive Rookie-of-the-Year honors and to the Pro Bowl, where he won the MVP award.
Faulk had four 1,000-yard rushing seasons with Indianapolis (1994-95, 97-98) and earned three Pro Bowl and second-team All-NFL honors (1994-95, 98).
Faulk had a superlative 1998 season with 1,319 rushing yards and 86 receptions for 908 yards for 2,227 scrimmage yards, a club seasonal-record eclipsed in 2000 by James (2,303).
Faulk joined Moore and Mitchell as then the only Colts with five straight 1,000-yard scrimmage yard seasons, and his 267 scrimmage yards at Baltimore that year still stand as the franchise record.
Faulk finished his Indianapolis career with receptions in his first 77 career games, a streak broken by Marvin Harrison (190).
Peyton Manning often said he “owed a debt” to Faulk for the 1998 season and how it made his rookie season easier.
“Marshall Faulk was truly a one-of-a-kind football player. He was a runner with immense skills who combined speed, elusiveness, immediate burst and power,” said Manning. “Marshall was an outstanding receiver who could be put in any formation, run every route and make every catch. He was a threat to score every time he touched the ball.
“Marshall’s ability to read a defense was as good as any quarterback. He and I played together my rookie year. He was a tremendous presence for me, and I always will be grateful to him for helping me that year. I loved watching him play. There will never be another like him.”
While Faulk’s veteran acumen and talents impressed a young Manning, Faulk’s first Colts coach, veteran Ted Marchibroda, knew right away he had a special talent.
“The first thing that comes to mind about Marshall is he didn’t miss an assignment,” said Marchibroda. “Right away we realized we had an intelligent football player, in addition to a natural athlete. He was on top of everything, which was an indication of his intelligence, determination and willingness to learn.
“The thing that impressed me the most was that in his second or third step he was running almost full speed. He was able to do that and be quicker in that respect more than any other back I’d had ever seen.”
Faulk remembers joining the Colts and being glad to have a chance to play a sport he adored growing up in New Orleans.
“I worked in the Superdome and sold popcorn just so I could get in the stadium,” said Faulk.
Those dreams took root with the Colts and led to the Rams, an inverted order than for Dickerson.
They both ended up in Canton, and Faulk shares the same gratitude as Dickerson on being honored there and with two franchises.
“To know in three buildings related to the NFL my name is going to be on those walls for my kids and my kid’s kids to see, it’s unbelievable, almost undreamable and unfathomable,” said Faulk. “I’m appreciative of it. It means a lot.
“It’s (the Colts Ring of Honor selection) just awesome. I cherish my time (in Indianapolis). That was 1994 and almost 20 years later to be recognized by the organization, it’s a great feeling.”
Like Dickerson, Faulk cited teammates for helping make the induction possible.
“For Jeff Herrod, Kirk Lowdermilk, Randy Dixon, Zefross Moss, Will Wolford, Joe Staysniak, Roosevelt Potts, Marcus Pollard, Ken Dilger, they’re going to look up there and share what I feel,” said Faulk. “They (and others) know every yard I gained was because of what they did. My name being up there is my name, but they know everything I accomplished I did it because of their effort in blocking and doing their jobs.”
Intertwined as closely as possible in jersey numbers with the Colts and Rams, Dickerson and Faulk share a friendship. Faulk finds it appropriate to be honored along with Dickerson. Dickerson shares the sentiment.
“Marshall was a great player, a great player, period,” said Dickerson. “The funny thing is our numbers were 28 and 29. That’s the funniest thing of all. It’s an honor to be going in with a player like Marshall.”
“This could not be a better honor,” said Faulk. “The Colts could not have picked a better person (than Dickerson). These honors usually come alone, and you’re usually standing out there alone.
“Although we were never teammates, this is another ‘team’ moment we are going to share. We never shared the football field, but this allows us to share a special moment like we share our friendship. Eric is a guy I’ve always looked up to and respected. He’s a dear friend of mine. This is a moment I’m definitely going to cherish.”
Dickerson and Faulk will join those previously inducted – Robert Irsay (1996), Bill Brooks (1997), Chris Hinton (2001), Jim Harbaugh (2005), Ted Marchibroda (2007), the 12th Man (2008), Tony Dungy (2010), Marvin Harrison (2011) and Edgerrin James (2012).
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT DICKERSON
The thing that people didn’t appreciate about him was the fact that I will never forget. The first thing everybody talks about was how beautiful he ran the ball. What impressed me was what he did between the tackles. People probably don’t realize how hard and how physical of a runner he was. I will never forget it was a handoff (in his first Colts game against the Jets in 1987) and he ran through a guy and took a couple of pretty good hits. I thought, ‘Let’s go back to the huddle and it’s second-and-seven or second-and-eight. You hear the announcer (say), ‘Second-and-three.’ I’m like, ‘Man, he got seven yards on just a hard run.’ As an offensive lineman, to have a running back who is willing to get the tough yards and able to get them (was impressive). As a teammate, I enjoyed playing with him. It’s funny, I’ve watched professional football, college football all the way down to Pop Warner football. I’m always looking at kids running the football and you think that somebody might run as effortlessly as Eric did. But no, I still haven’t seen anybody who ran the ball the way he did it.
For as tall as he was and he ran upright and how smooth he was, it never appeared that he was running that hard or was exerting that energy, but he was. Eric was quick and had good speed. He could hit a hole, break a tackle and be gone. He was elusive that way. I don’t think he was one of those ‘shake-and-bake’ kinds of runners. I’m sure he had those runs, but he was upright. He was going to hit the hole and out-run guys. It was going to be hard to bring him down. He got it done. Once he hit that gap and that seam, he was going to hit the sideline and go, and guys weren’t going to catch him. The ease he ran with was deceptive. Being that much taller than other runners and having that long stride, it made it appear that he wasn’t moving. You would get up to him and he was by you and was gone. You would be like, ‘How did that happen?’ He was real smooth, quick and deceptive.
His running style was different from anything I’ve seen personally. Most of the runs I’ve seen had the running backs a little lower with their shoulder pads down and a little bit lower over their feet. They would try to deliver blows. Eric did try to deliver blows but the one thing that unique about Eric even though he ran upright, no one ever really got a good shot at him. That’s something that Eric worked on. He said whenever he was going to get hit he would try to turn his body to take a glancing blow instead of a really good hit on him. The thing that impressed me the most about Eric outside of his running style was that Eric worked out very hard. When Eric was here a couple summers and we would work out together, he worked out very hard. I thought I was in OK shape and Eric would run me into the ground. He was a running back and I was receiver, and he would really run me into the ground. He worked out extremely hard to stay in shape. He said when he was in Texas, he would run these hills in 100-degree weather and do that over and over again to stay in shape. When he was here, you could see that he did do that. I would say his work ethic during the off-season really impressed me outside of his running style, how smooth he was, how graceful he was when he was running the ball, how talented he was. I don't think people realize how strong Eric was. Eric was a strong running back. He was tall, but pretty thick and a guy who was very strong.
WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT FAULK
Marshall Faulk was one of the game’s most exciting runners. Marshall’s combination of speed, power and elusiveness made him a threat every time he carried the ball. He had tremendous talents as a receiver, and that made containing him even tougher for defenses. Marshall also possessed a high intellect and superb vision. He truly was gifted, and his style was every bit as compelling as any back who played in the NFL.
Marshall had his own style. He was just a natural athlete. He was a great runner. Marshall had great, great vision. He could cut on a dime and could make the big play running and in the passing game. Marshall backed everything up with his ability.
Marshall has three superb qualities – vision, patience and acceleration. Marshall must have the greatest vision of any player I have seen. He knows where everyone is at all times. He senses every potential tackler. That is a talent that isn’t taught. He also has the patience to let plays and blocks develop. Many times he will downshift his speed so he doesn’t outrun a block, then he explodes when the opportunity arises. He has that quickness that makes him a threat at all times. On a chessboard there is only one piece that has all the moves. Marshall is that player. I initially joined the Colts in 1995 for two reasons. The first was the approach and commitment (to winning). The second was after looking at film of Faulk and knowing he was the real deal.