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Faulk induction: laughter, tears, surprises

On the ground, through the air, in the return game, in pass protection… there was no aspect of football where Kevin Faulk couldn't make a difference. Even more impressive, as head coach Bill Belichick noted in remarks at Faulk's Patriots Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Faulk's biggest contributions came in the biggest games.

Back in April, during the NFL Draft, Faulk delivered yet again. Called upon to announce one of New England's draft choices, he gladly accepted the honor, but in so doing, he also wanted to make a big play for his former club. Knowing that his former teammate, quarterback Tom Brady, was embroiled in a legal battle with the NFL, Faulk chose to show his support for Brady by wearing the QB's No. 12 jersey onto the stage when he announced the pick.

That selfless decision may have helped cement Faulk's election to the team's Hall of Fame, which is selected by fan balloting. Voting was still taking place at that time, but when the votes were tallied, Faulk ended up the clear winner.

Check out our favorite photos from the 2016 Patriots Hall of Fame induction of Kevin Faulk on Monday, August 1, 2016.

Monday night, Faulk returned to Foxborough to accept his bright red blazer, given to every inductee to the Patriots Hall of Fame. As he made his way to the stage, once again, he was sporting a Tom Brady jersey underneath his suit jacket, which delighted the overflowing crowd who'd come to witness the event outside the Hall.    

In a ceremony filled with both poignancy and humor, Patriots owner Robert Kraft introduced Faulk, saying he "was never the biggest nor the fastest on the gridiron, but here in New England, fans don't measure sports heroes by their height. They're measured by their heart."

Faulk, at 5-8, was one of the shortest players in the league and nearly identical in stature to Kraft, who quipped that when he drafted Faulk in 1999, he knew he'd "see eye to eye" with the versatile running back.

"We love overachievers, unselfish players who give everything they've got on every play," Kraft continued. "We especially love the little guys who always seem to come up big."

Kraft complimented Faulk by referring to him as "a Swiss Army knife" because of his versatility as a player and for being the longest-tenured running back in team history (13 seasons).

Faulk appeared overwhelmed by Kraft's kind words and the enthusiastic response of the capacity crowd, beginning his speech with a simple, "Wow" and shaking his head in disbelief.

A devout Christian, the Louisiana native thanked his Creator before listing the names – most of them familiar to Patriots fans – and roles of former teammates, coaches, family, and friends who helped mold Faulk into the player he was and the man he is today. Faulk recalled the regular-season Tuesdays, the NFL's traditional day off, when he would do charitable work, inspired by the philanthropic example set by Kraft and his late wife, Myra.

He also singled out former head coach Pete Carroll and general manager Bobby Grier for selecting him in 1999 out of LSU. Faulk said he "idolized" wide receiver Troy Brown as a rookie and called Ty Law, a fellow Patriots Hall of Famer, one of the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history.

Without Brady, Faulk acknowledged, many of his most memorable plays on the field would not have been possible.

Of fellow Patriots Hall of Famer Ty Law, who was in attendance, Faulk said, "Peyton Manning, one of the greatest ever to play the game, was scared to throw to Number 24's side."

He credited linebacker Tedy Bruschi, another red blazer owner, for helping him become such a formidable blocker in blitz pickup situations, despite his diminutive size. Faulk thanked players like linebackers Chris Slade and Ted Johnson, wide receiver Shawn Jefferson, and QB Drew Bledsoe for "showing me how to be a professional."

Last year's inductee, Willie McGinest, was to Faulk "a big brother."

Fellow running backs and offensive linemen, groups with whom Faulk was particularly close when he played in Foxborough through the years, were also given special recognition, as were a number of teammates who served as spiritual guides for Faulk.

When he was done praising players, Faulk turned his attention to the many coaches who influenced him throughout his life, from middle school to the NFL, from head coaches to assistants and coordinators.

"If it wasn't for Dante [Scarnecchia], I wouldn't be here after Year 2," asserted Faulk, who thanked the long-time o-line coach for working with him on blitz pickup technique.

Running backs coach Ivan Fears served "kind of like my father away from home, whenever I needed someone to talk to," Faulk revealed.

Having been drafted by Carroll, Faulk conceded that he had to earn the respect of Belichick when the coach took over in 2000. Faulk told a story about how the head coach called him a number of times early in the player's career whenever the Patriots were about to acquire a new running back to compete with Faulk.

"He didn't have to do that, but that's a little sign of respect. My momma always said, 'If you give respect, it will come back to you 10 times.'"

Faulk infused humor into his speech at various points, but came to tears when speaking about his family, particularly his wife of 16 years. The couple has been together since the seventh grade.

He was also overcome when recalling how, throughout this past weekend in Foxborough, Faulk heard so many people speak about him in glowing terms as a player, but that "he was an even better person." Faulk thanked his parents for raising him to be that way.

"To the fans of New England," he concluded, "thank you for all the countless hours you spent in this stadium cheering us on, standing up for this organization. Thank you and I love you."

Belichick followed Faulk at the podium, where he told the crowd that Faulk deserved his honor in the Hall because he was such a clutch performer on the field. After the coach spoke, a few of Faulk's former teammates shared brief stories about their friend on stage, as has become an induction ceremony tradition.

The evening's festivities would normally have ended there, and fans would have gone directly into Gillette Stadium to begin watching the current team in its annual in-stadium camp practice.

But the Patriots had a surprise for Faulk.

Emerging from the Hall in one of Faulk's old No. 33 jerseys was none other than Brady himself – the man for whom Faulk stood up earlier this year at the NFL Draft. The crowd erupted in cheers and applause.

"I feel a lot faster in this jersey already," Brady joked with a big grin. "Faster, more elusive, better hands, a lot tougher."

Brady called Faulk one of the greatest teammates he's ever had – "His commitment to our team was exceptional" – and said he was honored to take part in this "wonderful night."

The QB was in great spirits in the few minutes he appeared on stage.

"We've got the best fans in the world," he declared, and the crowd started chanting his name. Brady thanked them, but quickly reminded the audience, "No, this [night] is for Kevin.

"As great a player as Kevin was," Brady concluded, turning to the guest of honor, "he's a better friend. We love you."

As his late mother had promised, the respect Faulk gave was, in turn, well received. PFW

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