The Underrated (by some) Kevin Faulk

With the news that Kevin Faulk has been lost for the season to an ACL tear (which could mean the end of his career), I’ve been thinking about how much Faulk has meant to the Patriots over his 12 seasons with the team. As serious Patriots fans know, it’s a lot. Here’s a piece I wrote about Kevin for  Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History. (It shows up in my chapter on Super Bowl XXXVIII.)

The Other Troy Brown: Kevin Faulk

If Troy Brown had been a running back, he would have been Kevin Faulk. Seriously. At times the similarity between the two players borders on uncanny. It starts with attitude: Faulk, like Brown, is the definition of a blue-collar athlete. He works hard and does whatever his team asks. He’s been doing it for 11 years, all with the Patriots, and if he’s ever complained that he doesn’t get enough recognition he hasn’t done it publicly.

But the fact is, Faulk doesn’t get enough recognition. He’s been a consistent contributor on offense, both running the ball and providing a reliable target for Tom Brady in short passing situations. His 418 catches are the most by a running back in Patriots’ history. He’s returned punts and kicks, sometimes with spectacular results. And like Brown, he’s been there to strip intercepted balls away from defensive backs. In 2007 he got one back from Baltimore Ravens safety Ed Reed, allowing the Patriots come out ahead in their toughest match of the season.

In Super Bowl XXXVIII, Faulk had a key two-point conversion, taking a direct snap and rocketing through the one gap. It was Faulk’s only score that year (though he’d racked up 1,351 all-purpose yards) but it was critical. Had the two-point try failed, the Pats likely would have been driving to tie late rather than to win.

And how does Faulk feel about being compared with Brown? “Troy’s my idol,” he says. “When I came here, I tried to model myself after him.” Mission accomplished.

Reminds Me Of Something

“In any return, there’s one guy who’s not blocked. And your job as the return man is to make that guy miss. If you can do that, you’ve got a chance to take it all the way.”

Kevin Faulk told me that in respect to Ellis Hobbs‘ NFL record 108-yard kickoff return TD on opening weekend of the 2007 season. (That’s right, you can read Faulk’s comments and more in Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History.)

I got to thinking about Hobbs’ play yesterday after Brandon Tate took the opening kickoff of the second half 97 yards for a touchdown. (Hobbs’ TD also came on the opening kickoff of the second half.)

Thought about it more as I watched and rewatched the Tate play last night. It’s a really pretty return. Tate gets one really good block (I think it’s Rob Gronkowski who throws it), but other than that, it’s all about the second-year WR/kick returner, who’s healthy for the first time in his NFL career and showing great promise.

The play’s not a game changer, mind you. The Pats had the thing well in hand by the end of the first half. But it did pretty much ice the thing. won’t let me embed the video here, but ya gotta go check it out.

Signing With Nellie

The first signing with Patriots Hall of Fame linebacker Steve Nelson is officially confirmed.

Nellie and I will be signing copies Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers store in Warwick, Rhode Island on Saturday, October 2 from 1 to 3 p.m.

This is going to be a great opportunity for you to meet one of the all-time great Patriots.

Steve played 14 years for the Pats, during which time he went to three Pro Bowls. He was part of three of the best Patriots teams ever fielded, in 1976, 1974 and 1985. That ’85 squad, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary year, was the first Patriots team to make the Super Bowl.

Steve, who wrote a terrific foreword for Game Changers, is only doing two signings. So don’t miss this chance to meet him and pick up a signed copy — for yourself or that special Pats fan on your holiday list.

Store details and a link to directions are on the events page.

TV Interview

I’ll be appearing on 22 News, WWLP, in Springfield, Massachusetts on Monday, September 13.

I’ll do two segments, one at 5:50 a.m. and the other at 6:15 a.m. I’ll be talking about Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History and the Patriots season opener.

I hope you’ll be able to tune in.

Happy 50th, AFL

September 9 is the first day of the 2010 NFL season. That, I suppose, we all know.

What you might not realize is that the date also marks the 50th anniversary of the AFL’s inaugural regular season game. On September 9, 1960, the Boston Patriots hosted the Denver Broncos at Boston University Field.

The Pats were expected to beat the Broncos handily. They didn’t. And the biggest part of the difference was a spectacular punt return touchdown by Denver’s rookie running back/placekicker (and, as the result of an injury to halfback Al Carmichael, kick returner) Gene Mingo.

Here’s an excerpt from the chapter in Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History in which I look at the game and Mingo’s back-breaking play.

“It sort of freaked me out that during my first game I was going to have to do something I had never prepared for,” Mingo remembers. “But in those days, football wasn’t so specialized. We had 33 guys on that team. If you wanted to keep your job, you did what your coach asked.”

Mingo did a bit more than anyone could have expected.

As the clock ticked away in the third quarter with neither offense accomplishing much — a fact at least partially attributable to poor lighting, which made passing the ball increasingly difficult as the night wore on — Mingo took a punt from Tom Greene at the Broncos’ 24-yard line.

He started left, saw that he had good blocking to his right and cut over to take advantage of it. Eluding coverage, Mingo charged up the right sideline leaving only Greene, the backup quarterback and punter, between him and the end zone.

“Not only did I punt the ball that Gene Mingo returned for the TD, I also was the last Patriot player to have a chance to tackle him,” Greene recalls. “I tried, but he ran over me like a truck in what was surely a testimony to his determination and ability.”

Mingo powered the full 76 yards down the field and into the end zone, logging the first punt return touchdown in AFL history and posting the points that would decide the game.

Wanna know the rest? Buy the book. It’s worth it. I promise.

More Radio

Just a quick heads up: I’ll be on the The Jim Polito Show on WTAG, 580 AM/94.9 FM in Worcester, Massachusetts, Thursday, September 9 at 8:05 a.m. talking about the book and the upcoming Pats season. The segment will re-air Friday, September 10 at 6:05 a.m. Tune in if you’re around. Or log on to the station’s web site. And, you know, if you have a second, stop by the event page on Facebook and let me know you’ll be listening.

I’ve also taped an interview with Monte on The River, 93.9 FM in Northampton, Massachusetts. That’ll run either on Thursday, September 9 or Friday, September 10. I’ll let you know exactly when as soon as I hear.

It’s On

I’ve scheduled the first radio interview related to Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History. I’ll be on the Morning Show with Brad & Bo on WHYN, 560 AM in Springfield, Massachusetts, Friday, September 3 at 7:05 a.m. talking about the book and the upcoming season. I’ve very excited to get things rolling. If you’re not in the area, you can listen through the WHYN web site.

I’ve got an events page up on the site now, which currently lists that interview and a signing in Walpole October 23. Keep checking back for more events, including those signings with Steve Nelson (and some Nellie media appearances).

Also, Amazon now has a cover image up. That seems like something.

The book is out. You can buy it. And read it. And, I hope, enjoy it. So, you know, get on with it.

Available On Line

It appears that Amazon is selling Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History, though they still don’t have a cover image up. So if you’ve been waiting for that to kick in, well, apparently it has.

Still no word on signings with Nellie. You’ll know when I know. Meanwhile, I’m working on signings with just me. There again, I’ll let you know what’s up as soon as there’s something to report.

It’s Out There

Went to my local Barnes & Noble this afternoon to pick up Pat Kirwan and David Seigerman’s Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, which I can’t wait to read, and a copy of the latest Pro Football Weekly (getting ready for a fantasy draft on Thursday and I like their board a lot) and saw copies of Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History on the shelf. It was my first actual sighting of the book in the wild. So, you know, it’s out there. Which is pretty damned exciting if you ask me.

Waiting and Planning

As I wait for Game Changers: The Greatest Plays in New England Patriots History to hit stores, and for Triumph to finalize dates and locations for the two signings with Patriots legend Steve Nelson, I’m starting to plan some other activities for the fall. Those will include signings (yeah, just me without Nellie) and, you know, some other stuff TBD.

If you’re just wondering when signings are happening, please keep checking back (or make things easy on yourself by joining the Game Changers Facebook group). When you see an Events page show up on the navigation bar, it means there’s something to list.

I think I’m going to be in Foxborough on September 12, when the Pats host the Cincinnati Bengals. I’ll spend the hours before kickoff walking around the parking lots talking to fans (I can’t sell out there, so I’m not gonna be trying to sell anyone anything; I’ll just be chatting and telling folks about my book). So if you’re gonna be out there tailgating and you’ve got a regular spot and you want me to stop by and say hello, just drop me a line and let me know where. I’ll do my best to get over your way.

If you’ve got suggestions about where I should sign, leave a comment and let me know. I’ll try to work it out. (For what it’s worth, I’ve tended to sign at chain stores, because they’ve generally been more receptive to me than indies. But the indies that have had me have been great. So, you know, I’ve got no loyalties either way. If a store will have me in, I’ll get there.)

And, of course, if you’ve got an event that needs a storytelling football historian or you want me to come and tailgate with you, we can work that out, too.