In 1994, in a space of only five months, Faulk earned himself a ranking among the league's premier running backs—Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys, Barry Sanders of the Detroit Lions, Thurman Thomas of the Buffalo Bills. Even more noteworthy, however, was how Faulk helped to transform his team. He made Indianapolis a contender. In 1993 the team went 4-12; last year, with Faulk carrying much of the load, it enjoyed a respectable 8-8 record and inspired among Colt fans the kind of optimism last felt when the team still belonged to Baltimore.
Faulk took his success in stride—just as he takes everything. He's about as excitable as a box of rocks and oftentimes is so detached that one feels inclined to give him a good hard shake and ask if everything is all right. Before games he's so relaxed that it's all he can do to keep from falling asleep in the dressing room. His eyelids grow heavy; he lets loose big, ripping yawns that flutter the windowpanes. There he is, ready to snooze, and outside the world awaits with binoculars poised, certain to witness another historic performance. It has been that way since his freshman year in college, when he replaced an injured teammate in the second game of the season and set an NCAA Division I-A single-game rushing record with 386 yards on 37 carries. Former and present football greats have been queuing up ever since to offer testimonials to his brilliance.
"You don't exaggerate when you say a guy like that comes along once in a lifetime," Simpson once said of Faulk.
"He's bad," Tony Dorsett, another NFL Hall of Famer, has been quoted as saying. "Bad to the bone. He's the total package."
But now on this resplendent day in spring when all of Southern California seems to be coated with either flower petals or cocoa butter, the lone opinion Faulk seems concerned about is that of Nina, who, having finished clipping his nails, says, "Feel better now?"
"Want some clear? I put clear on big football...."
"No." Faulk jerks his hands away. "No clear."
"Double the price for big football star," comes a voice from across the room. It's the manager, lifting a smile and a wave.
The cost is $8. Faulk fishes in his pocket for a $10 bill, drops it on the counter and leaves, studying his nails. In minutes he's back in traffic, pushing the Range Rover well above the speed limit, dodging dawdlers. On the stereo the rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg reminds everyone in earshot exactly how it feels to eat big bullets and die. Faulk sings along, his face creased with compassion. He seems to understand.