NEW ORLEANS – Life in the NFL has been full of glitz and glamour for running back Marshall Faulk.
He is playing for his second Super Bowl title this weekend. In eight NFL seasons he has gone to the Pro Bowl six times, rushed for more than 1,000 yards seven times and has won league MVP honors once. Since coming to the league, he has made the game look easy.
He'll fill what most consider a dream Sunday when he plays in Super Bowl XXXVI in his hometown. He is removed from the tough life he lived in the projects of New Orleans, but don't sell Faulk lines of him being a success story.
"You grow up in the projects and you think everybody does," Faulk said. "You think everybody is like you. It was fun. I enjoyed the culture we had and the people we have. I enjoyed the fun that New Orleans provides. I didn't know anything was different until I went to college.
"With the whole upbringing thing, people want to make a story out of it, and I don't want a story. I play football and I love what I do, that's that. It has nothing to do with where I grew up, or that I grew up in a rough environment. There are people who grew up in rough environments, but you just don't hear about them. They've made it in business, or they are doctors and lawyers. Where I grew up doesn't make me what I am. What makes me what I am is that I've had success, I've kept my head on straight and I've made the right decisions in life."
Faulk sees trumpeting the stories of athletes reaching the big time as putting undo pressure on youths in the projects. Stories make hardships seem nearly impossible to overcome, but that's not the case in Faulk's eyes.
"I'm not trying to run away from where I came from," Faulk said. "It's just that, it's made into a big deal, and a kid starts to think he is up against the Great Wall of China, and that he can't over the hump, but he can. You have to apply yourself. Is it hard? Yeah, it's hard, but it's like everything else. If you work for it, you get it.
"If sit here and say it was rough and tough, kids are going to sit there and say, 'Well, I don't have what it takes to make it because I can't run the football like he does. I can't take on 300-pound guys or go up the middle and get my helmet ripped off.' That stuff has nothing to do with it. When I talk to kids, I let them know it's not about that. You don't have to be a football player to do it."
Home town hero
Like Faulk, cornerback Aeneas Williams will be playing in from of his friends and family this weekend.
Traded to St. Louis during the offseason after 10 seasons in Arizona, Williams is getting his first shot at the title.
"To have this experience after playing in this league for 11 years, and to have the opportunity to win the Super Bowl is a tremendous experience, especially in your home town," Williams said. "I get to shoot for this in front of all the people who are part of who I am, whether it was encouraging words or a spanking. All those people can enjoy this with me."
Home Depot Confusion
Offensive linemen need to be able to work together as a unit, but that doesn't mean they like to be confused with one another.
Guard Adam Timmerman (6-4, 300 pounds) was teased for that fact that he and center Andy McCollum (6-4, 295 pounds) have a similar look. He said the two getting confused has happened before.
"People at Home Depot kind of get us confused every once in a while, even though I have different hair and a superior physical build," Timmerman said. The guy at Home Depot asked me one day, 'Are you Andy McCollum? Someone was saying you were Adam Timmerman, but I know you are more ripped than him.'
"I was like, 'What in the world is this guy looking at?' Andy has 35 percent body fat, and I am at 12 percent. How could he possibly get us confused?"
Punter John Baker, on how seeing New England's Troy Brown back for punts will affect his job Sunday: "We've faced a bunch of great punt returners this season, so we just want to approach it like any other game. Hopefully what we do can nullify whatever he does. With the talent and ability around the league these days, anyone can break one at any time. The fact that he has done it three times is a compliment to him, but again, hopefully what I can do will be good enough to shut down what he does."
Faulk, on whether the team feels they can't be beat, and how being perceived as a heavy favorite affects the Rams: "When you start feeling like you are invincible, that's when you get beat. The thing that makes us work is the fear of failure. We don't want to take somebody lightly and then go out and get beat.
"We've been dealing with it all year. Teams like to put us up on a pedestal and say that we can't be beat, but we don't listen to that. We understand there are two teams out there, and the other team will give us their best. All we try to do is give our best."
Timmerman and New England's Adam Vinatieri played together at South Dakota State and will play against each other in the Super Bowl for the second time. Timmerman was with Green Bay for the 1996 title game… St. Louis is 5-1 in the postseason over the last three seasons after being 10-14 in its first 29 years.