Marshall Faulk: The Aztec For Life
In 2008, a new phrase was introduced to the San Diego State community.
It was far from just another catchy slogan or the latest marketing ploy. The intentions for this phrase were much bigger.
The intentions for this phrase were for it to become a way of life. Three words used to create a new sense of pride for everyone associated with the university.
Aztec for life.
This phrase wasn’t introduced by just anybody. It was introduced by the man who could easily be tabbed as San Diego State’s most famous alumnus; it’s prized possession.
This phrase was introduced by the epitome of an Aztec for life – Marshall Faulk.
The SDSU Alumni Association established the catchy motto in 2008, and Faulk became a key component in its growth and popularity. He sponsored an “Aztec For Life” event that year, and continues to promote the phrase today.
“I take ‘Aztec for life’ very seriously,” Faulk said of the phrase. “Once you come to San Diego State, the memories that you had and everything else you learned stays with you forever. I am proud to be an Aztec and others should be too.”
The confident charisma
When Marshall Faulk talks, you can’t help but listen. With a confident tone and impeccable swagger that captivate the ears and eyes, he lures in the audience with ease.
He knew when he was growing up in a rough New Orleans neighborhood that he had talent. Once he arrived to college, he knew he was going to turn heads and gain exposure, even if it was at little-known San Diego State.
Once he was drafted, he knew he was going to take the NFL by storm, and leave a legacy that would never be forgotten.
And now, he knows he can use his legacy and prosperity to change the lives of thousands of young kids throughout the country.
A legend is born
It didn’t take long for Faulk to make a name for himself at San Diego State.
Whether he used his array of killer juke moves or his top-notch speed, he had an uncanny ability to avoid defenders.
Although he fumbled his first-ever collegiate carry, he immediately bounced back. In just his second collegiate game, he rushed for a jaw-dropping 386 yards and seven touchdowns; both NCAA records for a freshman that still stand today.
“I was just having fun, just playing the game I love,” Faulk said about the wild performance. “I really didn’t realize what I had done until after the game during the interviews.”
This unbelievable performance was just the beginning of a stellar collegiate career, which culminated with Faulk being drafted by the Indianapolis Colts as the second overall pick in the 1994 NFL Draft.
“Being drafted was a dream come true,” Faulk said. “Ever since I was young, all I wanted to do was play football. I put everything I had into it, and that day it truly paid off.”
NFL milestones and memories
Faulk didn’t slow down at all once he arrived to the NFL.
He became a rare breed of running back – one that rarely left the field on offense. Not only did he carry the football, he also caught the ball out of the backfield and blocked in pass protection.
“It’s hard to do what I did,” Faulk said. “It’s not the trend anymore, to have a running back do everything and play every down. You have to be versatile, and you have to really understand the schematics of how the offense works.”
During his 12 NFL seasons, Faulk set records, won awards, and registered incredible stats that exemplified his greatness as a player. When Faulk looks back at his career, however, the individual accolades don’t even come close to the importance of the shiny ring on his finger.
“Winning the Super Bowl was without a doubt my greatest achievement in sports,” Faulk said. “I had to sacrifice a lot because I didn’t carry the football as much. I changed the way I played, but everything I endured was well worth it.”
The Marshall Faulk Foundation
For several years on the football field, Faulk was on the receiving end of things.
He received countless handoffs and passes in games, he received a variety of awards and honors, and most recently, he received an induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
After years of receiving, though, Faulk wanted to switch roles. He wanted to focus on giving.
“Once I got to the NFL, I knew right away that I wanted to help and give back,” Faulk said. “I really wanted to help provide for inner-city youth, and give them opportunities that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Faulk retired in 2007, and shifted his focus to the Marshall Faulk Foundation, a charitable organization established to help underprivileged children. He established the foundation in 1994, but it wasn’t until he retired that he was able to take it to the next level.
Today, over a million dollars has been provided in financial assistance and hands-on involvement in various programs.
“The charity work has been very special for me,” Faulk said. “I’ve been the kid sitting in those chairs, not knowing or understanding what the future holds. Giving them opportunities and a person that they can identify with brings me joy.”
The “Aztec For Life” returns to San Diego
In 2008, Faulk decided it was time for a change, and he and his staff relocated the foundation to San Diego.
Although they previously worked throughout the country – primarily in New Orleans, Indianapolis, and St. Louis – they shifted their focus to Southern California.
“All the opportunities that I received started in San Diego, and I will always remember my days wearing the red and black,” Faulk said. “I wanted to help the place that helped me the most, so I decided it would be a good place to establish a new home for the charity.”
Over the past few years, Faulk has stayed close with the athletic department at SDSU and never passes up a marketing opportunity to help the school. The “Aztec for life” phrase has carried on since it was first used in 2008, and there is now an annual event known as the Aztec For Life Homecoming Celebration hosted by the Marshall Faulk Foundation.
Former SDSU (2007-2011) quarterback Ryan Lindley, who now plays for the Arizona Cardinals, witnessed first-hand the slogan take its course in creating a new environment around campus.
“The phrase instills pride with everyone associated with the university, and has created an influx of support,” Lindley said. “Whenever I see an another Aztec, I know there is a bond there that is bigger than you find at other universities. I am proud to be an Aztec for life.”
The Marshall Faulk Foundation has also built numerous partnerships within the San Diego community, giving them a chance to help underprivileged children throughout the city.
Michael Brunker, the executive director of the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA in San Diego, is grateful for everything Faulk has done for his organization.
“Thanks to Marshall, we have a great relationship with San Diego State football, and we receive hundreds of tickets to every home game,” Brunker said. “These are great opportunities for the kids, and Marshall’s relationship with us has opened up doors that we couldn’t even imagine. We truly value all that he does.”
What does the future hold for Marshall Faulk?
On top of his charity work, he now works for the NFL Network as an analyst, providing his expertise on current NFL games and storylines. He says he truly enjoys the job, mostly because he misses football and it helps him stay involved with the game.
Faulk also attends Aztec football games as often as possible, and recently became a mentor to former SDSU and now-NFL running back Ronnie Hillman, who has often been compared to Faulk.
In Hillman’s first collegiate game in 2010, he fumbled his first-ever carry.
Watching from the sidelines, Faulk saw what seemed to be a replay of what had happened to him nearly two decades prior, and he knew he had to say something to the young running back.
Moments later, Faulk walked over to Hillman, whispered a few words in his ear, and walked away.
Like Faulk, Hillman bounced back, and scored his first-ever touchdown later in the game. Then, in his best Faulk impersonation, Hillman rushed for 150 yards and four touchdowns against New Mexico State in his second collegiate game.
So what inspirational words did Faulk say to Hillman after the fumble?
When asked about the event, Hillman laughed, and shared the details of the exchange.
“He gave me some good advice and made a good point,” Hillman said with a smile. “He said: ‘The funny thing is, I did the same thing. Now look at me.’ ”
In other words, Hillman had nothing to worry about. That Faulk guy sure turned out alright.
Marshall Faulk San Diego State Highlights