He died of throat cancer in early 1991 after being hospitalized for a couple of weeks. Faulk is evasive when discussing his relationship with his father. He says he was on a recruiting visit at San Diego State when Roosevelt died, and nobody called to tell him—not even his mother, who "knew how important the trip was for me." He says he spent three days in California "being recruited," and "when I got home was when they told me. They'd already buried him."
But Roosevelt actually died a few days before Marshall left on his trip. Reese recalls that "I had to make Marshall go to the funeral. Marshall and his daddy didn't get along—not at all, you understand? There are some things that happened between them that Marshall doesn't like to get into, and neither do I. But when his daddy died, I put Marshall in my van, and I said to him, 'You're going just to pay your respects—if only because he was your father. Whatever might have happened in the past, he's still your dad.' I drove him to the funeral myself, but he wouldn't get out of the van. He just sat there and watched from the window."
When asked why he would fabricate a story about what happened at the time his father died, Faulk says, "It's not that I'm ashamed of him or anything. I just choose to let him rest in peace, that's all."
Nearly five years have passed, but Marshall hasn't once visited the cemetery where Roosevelt is buried. "I think what I'll do," he says, "I'll buy him an expensive tombstone or something like that, one of the nice ones. That'll be my gift to him. I know what graveyard he's in, I know exactly where it is—if I wanted to go, yeah, I could go. But there are certain things you put in the back of your head just so you can stay focused. I had a task to accomplish, and I couldn't let his dying bother me, you know what I'm saying? The way I see it, I can either get down about my father and let it get to me, or I can go on with my life and do what I have to do."
At the time of Roosevelt's death, Reese had become a surrogate father, as he had been to many of the young athletes who passed through the corridors of Carver High. Marshall was in junior high school when he first came to Reese's attention, and Reese liked what he saw. After "doing some research," Reese says, he discovered that Marshall came from "a great bloodline but was like any other kid from the area. That is, he was leaning more to being bad than to being good. What separated him from the others was his intelligence. Being from the street, a really tough kid, Marshall was strong enough to meet a whole lot head-on that others his age would run from."
He also had speed. Faulk has been timed at 10.3 seconds in the 100 meters, and he says he has been caught from behind only once in his life: as a freshman in high school, while slowing down before crossing the goal line. It was a mistake he has never made since.
"What sets him apart from everybody else is that he can go from a standing start to full speed faster than anybody I've ever seen," says Ted Marchibroda, the Colts' coach. "When he runs the ball and is forced to hesitate, his next step is full speed."
One day early in his high school career, Marshall announced to Reese that he was quitting football to pursue a job at his brother Kinsey's barbecue stand. "I've got to work," Marshall told the coach. "I need the money."
Reese sat him down and described in detail a picture of the future that awaited Marshall Faulk. It was filled with every greatness, if only Marshall could ride out this tough time. Reese can really talk; his tongue is as quick and silvery as any TV preacher's. And this day his words found their mark. Later he would prove how determined he was to help Marshall; he got the young man a job at school. Marshall became a janitor, hired to mop up whatever mess, to scrub whatever sink, to polish whatever commode. "I made a little money," he says, "and I learned something too. I learned that when I grew up I didn't want to work a normal job."
Because of his custodial duties, Marshall was one of the first students to arrive at Carver in the morning. And because of football, he was one of the last to leave. Never comfortable in crowds, he spent most of his time alone, despite the fact that he was the most visible athlete at school, rushing for 1,800 yards and scoring 32 touchdowns in his last two years there. Not many of his fellow students knew him well, but that was by design. Marshall kept to himself because he liked it that way. He hasn't changed.