Nina lathers his cuticles with lotion.
"Well, anyway, I do all right," Faulk is saying, returning to the subject of earned income. "Let's just say I make enough to make Uncle Sam rich and to keep him happy."
This being spring, Faulk isn't in top physical shape. In fact, he hardly looks like an athlete; he could pass for a musician, say, or a nightclub sharp with too many daylight hours on his hands. He stands two inches short of six feet, and his 200 pounds isn't of the defined, rock-hard variety that besuits most world-class athletes. Faulk looks soft, fleshy. As a result, he often goes unrecognized, even by students at San Diego State, where he was an All-America two years ago and where he has returned this spring to continue work on his degree in public administration.
Nina knows him because he's a regular at the salon.
"Can you do them a little shorter?" Faulk says.
"They are very...." Her eyes have contracted to a tight squint, her mouth to a narrow snail.
"Hard?" Faulk says.
"I will...I will...try...."
Last season, after rushing for 1,282 yards and scoring 12 touchdowns, Faulk was a landslide selection as Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. Little more than a month after receiving the award, he rushed for 180 yards in the Pro Bowl, shattering a 22-year-old record held by O.J. Simpson. He was the only rookie in the game, but that wasn't why all eyes were on him. Faulk simply outplayed everybody else. And for that he was honored as the game's MVP, a tribute that by definition seemed to shortchange his accomplishments. In that game, as in so many others, Faulk was more than the most valuable player; he was also the most dazzling, the most surprising, the most engaging, the most fun to watch.
Not that he cared about winning the MVP trophy or, for that matter, his Rookie of the Year award. "They don't mean anything," Faulk says of individual honors. "Not really. When we do better as a team, they'll start to count."