Former Tiger Faneca Recalls Days At LSU

Things are definitely going well for ex-LSU standout offensive lineman Alan Faneca in the NFL.

Now in his 10th season, Faneca has been to the Pro Bowl six straight years and a few years back, was part of a Super Bowl-winning team in Pittsburgh. The New Orleans native played for the Bayou Bengals from 1994 through 1997 and left Baton Rouge with a number of honors. He was named the 1995 SEC Freshman of the Year, was a two-time first-team all-conference selection, and was also twice named an All-American.

In 1998, the Steelers drafted him 26th overall and Faneca started 12 of a possible 16 games as a rookie and earned all-rookie honors. Since then, his career has continued to take off as he is now regarded as one of the top O-linemen in the league and has the Pro Bowl selections to back that up. Tiger Rag recently caught up with him from the Steel City by phone and here's what he had to say.

Even now, over a decade after he last played for LSU, Faneca still holds his alma mater near and dear to his heart not only because of the great times he had there, but also for a more important reason.

"Those were some of the greatest times in my life," he said. "I met my wife there, made some great, lifelong friends and just had a great time there."

Like many who have played there, Faneca still gets chills when he thinks about getting to play at Tiger Stadium and in front of those famously raucous home crowds in Death Valley.

"Definitely, the excitement of coming in on a bus and then walking down the hill is incredible," he recalled. "Walking out onto that field and knowing that all of those fans have got your back is amazing. You could feel the vibrations on the field and it was great."

The months leading up to the NFL Draft can be a busy and stressful time for prospective draftees. First, they have to travel to Indianapolis for the league's annual combine, which many players who have experienced call nothing more than a meat market. Then there are individual workouts for many players, and then it's time to wait. Many players and/or their agents stress out about where they will go in the draft and which team will take them, but Faneca opted for a different approach before the 1998 draft.

"When it was coming around, I told my agent to leave me alone and that I didn't want to know anything about it until the week before," he said. "I had barely even talked to the Steelers and my agent thought I was a good fit there and that I would go there. That was his guess and he just happened to get it right."

Faneca came into the league and started all but four games as a rookie, but that doesn't mean that he didn't have to make some adjustments once he got to the pros.

"The biggest adjustment is playing in a new system," he said. "You spend four years in the same system in college and get comfortable in that and playing at that high level. Then, you get to the pros and get a new playbook thrown at you. You have to get comfortable with the plays and know what's going on. Everybody says that the speed of the game picks up in the NFL, and it does a little bit. But the thing that hits you is that you're playing against a defense that has 11 good players on that side of the ball instead of the three or four good players you would face in college."

Just a few years ago, Faneca reached the pinnacle that every NFL player wants to experience by winning a Super Bowl. It has been a highlight of his career.

"The Pro Bowl and the All-Pros are great individual honors, but most players would give them all up to win a Super Bowl," he said. "It doesn't matter how many they've been to, they would do that. You fight so long and hard to get to the Super Bowl that getting there and winning it just leaves you tingling. Getting there and winning it, there's nothing like it."

But with winning that Super Bowl comes an increasing hunger to get back to the big game and to hoist the Lombardi Trophy once again, but Faneca is completely fine with that.

"After you've been there, you get that taste and you want to relive that," he said. "I think a lot of people would say that the hunger is more after you've been there. But if you've been close for a long time and getting near the end of your career, there are so many years built up into that first one that once you get there, it's incredible. That first one is very special and you're like a little crack addict trying to get back there."

On an individual level, Faneca has also been to the Pro Bowl in each of the last six seasons, an achievement he considers a huge honor on a different level.

"It's exciting and fun every time (I go to Hawaii)," he said. "You get out there and get in that room with everybody and it's exciting and a great honor. Some people ask me if it gets old, but it will never get old because it's a great honor. Being voted on by fans, players and coaches is also great because it comes from every direction."

Several years back, Faneca and the Steelers returned to New Orleans to face the Saints at the Superdome. He remembers being so besieged with ticket requests that he devised a unique solution that would satisfy everyone.

"When we played the Saints a few years back, I would end up getting a (luxury) box because there ended up being so many people who wanted tickets," he stated. "There were about 50 people who actually came to the game."

This year marks his 10th in the NFL, and Faneca knows that he has been fortunate to a degree to remain injury-free. But great preparation also helps explain his longevity in Pittsburgh.

"I think there's definitely luck involved to a degree when you're talking about injuries," he said. "I think every year, I've taken the attitude that you have to go out there and prove yourself all over again. You have to go out there and can't sit back and rest on the great year you had the year before because there are draft picks and new players coming in every year that are coming for your job. You have to get out there and prepare harder each year and take great care of your body. You have to listen to your body and keep training harder. It's just an ongoing process."

With one Super Bowl ring and six straight trips to the Pro Bowl to his credit, ex-LSU offensive lineman Alan Faneca has done a lot in his first nine NFL seasons. And he shows no signs of slowing down. His goals remain simple: to reach – and win – another Super Bowl, and if he happens to make the Pro Bowl along the way, he has no problem with that either.

More than a decade since he did his blocking for the Tigers, Faneca has done pretty well for himself. If his current longevity has been any indication, he could be playing five or maybe even 10 more years.

And who knows how many more Pro Bowls he will play in between now and then.

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