"You would never know who he is in a room of 30 or 40 people," Marchibroda says. "And he wouldn't want you to know. He doesn't care to be the center of attention—that's the sort of person he is. He's very confident and aware, but at the same time he's humble. He has the actions of an older person, and this is one of the things I find most interesting about him. He was 28 last year when he was 21." By his senior year Marshall was spending most of his time outside of school with his best friend, Mark Bruno. When Cecile moved from the Desire project to another troubled, though less benighted, area of the city, Reese persuaded her to allow Marshall to stay near Carver. Soon after, he moved in with the Brunos. "It wasn't a project house," Mark says, "but right on the corner—real close, you know."
By now some of the nation's football powers were recruiting Faulk—Miami, Nebraska and LSU among them. But in the city of New Orleans he was relatively unknown, a fact that disturbed him less than it did his coach. Says Reese, "He went to a black school coached by a black coach. Had he been coached by a white coach at a private school, Marshall Faulk would've been a household name in this city."
Carver fielded average teams, and this added to Faulk's obscurity. "We always had the ability to beat great teams," Faulk says, "but we just never put it together because guys would get into trouble. My senior year we lost a cornerback. He was arrested on a manslaughter charge. Believe me, it hurt us."
Those college recruiters who coveted Faulk wanted him to play defensive back, having seen so little of him as a runner. When Faulk was on defense, he played only one position, but on offense he filled in wherever he was needed. He played quarterback, running back, tight end, wide receiver, flanker—everywhere but on the line, and even there he probably would have outdone his teammates. Faulk's body mass is centered in his rear end and thighs; he looks as if he could move a seven-man sled all by himself. "A football field used to seem so big to me," he says. "But now it seems short—it seems like I can run it fast, in no time. Boom! And I've covered it. The bigger and older I got and the faster I got, the shorter the distance seemed. Now it's like nothing. Easy."
Tired of being told that his future was on defense, Faulk informed Reese that he would commit to the next recruiter who reported to Carver offering him a chance to play running back. It seemed a rash decision, a line too hastily drawn, but Faulk seemed to mean it. A short time passed, and in walked a receivers' coach from San Diego State, a Western Athletic Conference school with little to offer compared with some of the behemoths recruiting Faulk.
The man told Faulk he would be given a fair shot at running back, and just like that Faulk knew where he would go.
"If another school had come through the door that day promising to let me run the ball, I'd have gone there," he says. "You get your mind set, and you stick with it. I'm a firm believer that whatever I want to do, I'm going to do."
Another thing about San Diego appealed to Faulk. It was half a continent away from New Orleans, where, he says, "you always had to be careful and watch what you said or who you were with. Out here you can be more open and do more things and feel safe about it.... I don't want to be back in New Orleans and jeopardize all that I've got going for myself here. People there provoke you to do things. It could happen here, but I think the chances are greater there if only because of where I'd be hanging out, and that would be my old neighborhood—I'll never run from that."
But he does fear that in New Orleans he would meet the same fate as his brother Raymond, jailed for robbery.
There are a few other reasons why Marshall feels more comfortable on the West Coast, not the least of which are the agreeable weather, the scenic beauty, the healthy-looking, high-spirited people and the freedom to go and have your nails done without raising a single eyebrow.