Retired Pro Bowl, All-Pro G, Alan Faneca Interview
Alan Faneca played guard for three years at LSU. He left early after totaling over 200 pancakes before his senior season. He entered the 1998 NFL Draft, and was selected 24th overall by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was 1st-team All Pro and a Pro Bowl selection every year from 2001 through 2007. He helped lead them to a Super Bowl victory, and had a key pull block that sprung Willie Parker to a 75-yard touchdown run. He was a Pro Bowler with the New York Jets in 2008 and 2009. He had a brief stint with the Arizona Cardinals. [UPDATE: He retired with nine All-Pro awards, nine Pro Bowl awards, and one Super Bowl title.]
Strauss : So, Alan, why do you make it important to connect to the fans?
Faneca : Anytime you connect with fans or a fan recognizes me while I’m out and about I try to make them fell special, generally that’s what they are looking for, just chance to say hi to an NFLer. Fans drive our sport, cheering or booing it’s their right, it’s our job to make sure it’s a cheer.
Strauss : When did you see your first live NFL game? Who played? Who won?
Faneca : My first NFL game would have been a Saints game, having grown up in New Orleans, but I don’t know who they played or who won.
Strauss : What is your favorite song to listen to before a game?
Faneca : My pre-game playlist has varied the last couple of years, for a long time I listened to the same playlist for like 7-8 years. Usually it will start out with something sorta mellow like Audioslave, then roll into some Tool and then whatever is getting me the most amped up at the time, it’ll change. I’ll throw in a lot of bands into the mix, but that is my progression of slow to fast. I get to the stadium very early, so I have to start out slow and build my way up.
Strauss : What is your favorite movie of all time?
Faneca : My favorite movie of all time is a hard one. Let’s go with The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
Strauss : What is your favorite snack food?
Faneca : My snack would be chips and cheese with homemade salsa.
Strauss : What is your favorite type of pie?
Faneca : Im not much on sweets, but at holiday time I am looking for some pecan pie.
Strauss : What is your favorite TV-Show?
Faneca : I am a Lost fanatic. I’m so upset it is over, but it did end well.
Strauss : What is your favorite meal?
Faneca : My Grandma’s chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes.
Strauss : What is your favorite video game?
Faneca : I enjoy the Wii and I love playing Xbox 360 online with a buddy of mine back in Pittsburgh, but that is only when I get the chance and make the time, which isn’t often.
Strauss : What is the one thing you can’t leave your house without?
Faneca : I can’t leave the house without my iPhone, but I guess a lot of people are like that these days. You can do so much with it why leave it behind.
Strauss : How long have you played football?
Faneca : I started playing football in 4th grade for my playground team. That was a short 26 years ago. I was 8 playing in a 9-10 year old league.
Strauss : Did you play any other sports in high school?
Faneca : In High School, I also played basketball and in track, I threw the shot put and discus.
Strauss : What is your favorite sport to play other than football?
Faneca : I loved basketball growing up the most. When I was little I told my parents I wanted to be a certain height so I could play basketball in college. I eventually grew to love football and my parents always messed with me about walking on at LSU to live my childhood dream. I was not on those guys level, so needless to say I never did. When I was 10, I was playing in the league championship game after being sick for a week and I was still not feeling great. The game tied, we call a time out with 12 secs left in the game, we throw the ball in, I get the ball on the baseline I take it to the hole, I go one way then pull up another about 8 Ft out and shot, the ball goes in and out of the rim and off the backboard and hits the rim again but doesn’t go in, but I was fouled, I go to the line with 1 sec left, I make the first one, miss the second the buzzer goes off we win by one.
Strauss : When did you realize that you were going to play football in college and in the NFL?
Faneca : I first got the dream of playing football in college when I was a Sophomore in H.S. My senior year I realized if I went out and worked hard I could make it happen. At LSU, I think it was before my redshirt sophomore season that I was close to being able to play in the NFL, and half way thru my redshift junior season I realized I might have a choice at the end of the year to go to the NFL early. It was a tough choice to leave LSU early but I did.
Strauss : If you weren’t playing in the NFL, what would you want to do?
Faneca : If I didn’t play professional football, I always say I would have started out with an office job, because that’s what your people train you to think about as you grow up. Then I would have found away out of the office and found something to do that got me outside of an office.
Strauss : What impact did your high school coach have on your career?
Faneca : I had two really great coaches growing up. In middle school and junior high, Coach Cory, he pushed me to want more and to work hard and really put me on the right path. In High School, Coach Carter, really educated me on the techniques in playing football and got me to really take off in the sport.
Strauss : Describe the hardest change between the jump from high school to college.
Faneca : From High School to college the big difference is you are no longer the big dog on the field. If you are playing in college it probably means you were one of the best on the field in high school, now you aren’t, everyone was once one of the best guys on the field in high school.
Strauss : What is your favorite memory from LSU?
Faneca : We are playing number 1 Florida at our place at night. We win the game, people storm the field, total chaos, a buddy and I jump up and hug each other, next thing you know we are at the bottom of a pile of teammates, looking eye to eye and we both can’t breath because there are to many people on us, we are down there for what feels like forever, but we eventually get up and there are fans all over the place. We celebrate into the night, but we keep hearing stories of the fans tearing down the goal posts and trying to get them out of the stadium to carry around campus, the next day we go in and the first thing I do is go inside the stadium to check it out, the fans tore them down and carried them to the top of the stadium in an attempt to throw them over the stadium wall and carry them off, they said it took every cop there to stop them. I wish I had a picture of that one.
Strauss : What is the hardest workout you ever had to complete?
Faneca : Hardest training workout I ever had to do was training for my conditioning test at LSU. Two 300 yard shuttles with 2 mins rest between, the 300 yard shuttle is between 2 cones 25 yards apart, so there are a lot of stops and turns which wear on you for having to stop and start so much.
Strauss : What can you expect from playing D-1 football?
Faneca : Division One Football is fun and exciting, the fans and huge stadiums. It’s also hard work, doing things to train you never thought of before to get ready.
Strauss : What impact did your college coach have on your pro career?
Faneca : My college coach, Hal Hunter, always held to me to a higher standard, not letting me just as good as the rest, what could I do better, how could I do it, I may have blocked my guy but I could have done it better or more efficiently. That’s when I really got better, working on all the little things that make you better.
Strauss : Describe the hardest change between the jump from college to the NFL.
Faneca : Going from college to the NFL: In college there are a few guys on the field that are really great and when you get to the NFL everyone is great, which makes the speed of the game pick up.
Strauss : What was it like to train for the combine?
Faneca : training for the combine was a series of 3 workouts all day. It’s like your training for football, lifting competition, and Mr Olympia all in one.
Strauss : What was your draft day experience like?
Faneca : When I got drafted, I had all my family over and we had a crawfish boil and just had fun. It was a good day.
Strauss : How has the number process worked throughout your entire football career?
Faneca : I was 66 in high school and I wanted it when I got to LSU, when I got to the Steelers I had to wait for a veteran to retire two years after I got there, I wore 65 those 2 years, when I got the Jets I gave a guy an Apple laptop couple other cool tech gadgets and a case of beer, all he wanted was the case of beer but I took care of him, when I got to the Cardinals no one had it so it just worked out.
Strauss : How important has film been to your development?
Faneca : Watching film is how you get better, you learn from your mistakes.
Strauss : What is the most important part of run blocking?
Faneca : The most important part of run blocking is make contact first know how to engage the defender where is he lined up and what do I need to do to get him where I want him.
Strauss : Being nominated year after year to the Pro Bowl, what’s that like?
Faneca : Going to the Pro Bowl is a great experience and honor and to have gone so often made it even more special. To be in a locker room with all the great players that are in there is special.
Strauss : Being the best guard in the game, how do you improve and stay motivated to stay on top? What do you do?
Faneca : Staying on top of your game, you have to realize that people are always chasing you. Every year guys are coming into the league trying to take your job. So every year you keep pushing and working hard to stay on top.
Strauss : People talk about you and how you are going to be in the Hall of Fame, how do you reply?
Faneca : When people talk about me and the Hall of Fame, I say thank you but I’ve got more work to do before we talk about that. I leave that talk to others, I worry about about me.
Strauss : Could you have predicted how far football was going to carry you?
Faneca : I never could have predicted football would carry me this far in life. It’s a lot of hard work, but at the same time I have to laugh sometimes because I get to play a game for a living and we take it so serious, meetings for hours and what not.
Strauss : What has been your favorite memory in the NFL?
Faneca : Winning the Super Bowl, to this day I can look at a picture from that game and get chills down my back.
Strauss : What is your nickname? How did you get it?
Faneca : I have had many nicknames, all of which you’ll have to find out on your own. Haha
Strauss : What is an experience you have had that changed your life?
Faneca : When my daughter Anabelle was born, that is a life changer to be in charge of helping mold her into a person. This little person that is yours and you will do anything for her.
Strauss : What is your favorite award that you received?
Faneca : One of my favorite awards was in high school, I got The Greater Houston Offensive Player of the Year award. That’s offensive player, not lineman, it was between everyone on offense, I was the first lineman to win the award. The first pro bowl I made was special, I had worked so hard and to get recognized was awesome.
Strauss : What is your favorite charity? Why? Why do you donate to it? Why is it important to give back?
Faneca : My wife Julie and I do a lot of different charity work. We do work with youth homes, A Glimmer of Hope (breast cancer research), epilepsy ( both myself and my daughter have it), and various other charities. It is important to use my position in the public and use it for something truly good. I don’t know that my wife Julie and I have a favorite charity. We see something that hits close to home and we get involved. Being in the NFL gives us the ability to use my name to get attention right away for a cause. We have always felt that it was our duty to use that and help out.
Strauss : What is it like to be diagnosed with Epilepsy? What effect has that had on your career?
Faneca : I found out that I have epilepsy when I was 14. It was christmas eve my freshman year of high school when I had my first seizure. I am very fortunate in the fact that I am able to control my seizures with medication. It has no effect on my football career. Having epilepsy and playing in the NFL has given me a great opportunity to be an advocate of epilepsy.
Strauss : For someone aspiring to play football in the NFL, do you have any advice for them?
Faneca : Work hard and have a back up plan. You may want to play in the NFL but so do a lot of people and the reality is that not everybody can, so as you work hard on football work just as hard in school because that will always be with you.
Strauss : Thank you so much for your time.
Faneca : It has been fun, hope I gave you some good stuff!