LSU standout Alan Faneca ends NFL career after 13 years

Dave Moormann

In the aftermath of the NFL Draft, and in the midst of LSU postseason competition, a former Tiger performed an act that could have gone unnoticed to those who weren’t paying attention to what was happening in the sporting world.

Alan Faneca announced an end to his Hall of Fame NFL career after 13 seasons, including the first 10 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. One of LSU’s most decorated offensive linemen ever, Faneca was an All-American for the Tigers in 1997 before becoming a nine-time Pro Bowl player in the NFL.

Faneca left LSU after his junior year, and when he did so he sounded as if he wished he could stay another season. He never said as much, but family considerations could have factored into his decision.

Be that as it may, Faneca and LSU superstar running back Kevin Faulk both entered the NFL in 1998. Faulk has enjoyed a stupendous pro career and won more Super Bowls than Faneca, yet it was Faneca who had a more profound impact on the first of three teams for which he played.

After opening holes for Faulk at LSU, Faneca paved the way for Jerome Bettis in Pittsburgh. The two played together for eight years, during which time Bettis gained 7,475 of his 13,662 career rushing yards. That total ranks fifth in NFL history. Most notably, the two were instrumental in Pittsburgh’s drive to the Super Bowl XL title.

Wherever he played, whether at John Curtis Christian School, LSU or in the NFL, Faneca remained a class act. That was apparent in the statement he released upon announcement of his retirement last week.

“It is time to move on to the next chapter in my life,” Faneca said. “I can’t wait to spend more time with my family. Playing in this league for as long as I did takes sacrifice, not only by me, but by each of them. I want to thank (wife) Julie, (daughter) Annabelle and (son) Burton for allowing me to fulfill all of my boyhood dreams. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Faneca never forgot his roots and appreciated those who helped him along the way. He met Julie while a freshman at LSU, and she has continued to support him just as he has done for her. It’s rare these days to see such a union endure, especially in the entertainment world, of which sports is a part.

After leaving Pittsburgh, Faneca spent two years with the New York Jets and his last one with the Arizona Cardinals. Although his time with the Jets was brief, Faneca’s retirement prompted three former teammates to respond on Twitter.

“(One) of the best offensive linemen ever!” twitted former offensive right tackle Damien Woody.

The opportunity to play with Faneca was “1 in a million,” twitted nose tackle Stone Pouha. “A blessing to be around….”

“Enjoy the time with the family!” implored center Nick Mangold.

Faneca is sure to do that in his native Louisiana, which he still calls home. Of course Faneca has shown that he can make a home wherever he goes and that his graciousness can make others feel at home in his presence.

Faneca wasn’t the most talkative person at LSU, but his time there was all part of his development both personally and professionally. He’s more than grown into his 6-foot-5, 316-pound body with the heart to match.

He’s been involved both with “A Glimmer of Hope”, which supports breast cancer research, and “Speaking Out for Epilepsy” after being diagnosed with the ailment. His retirement won’t slow him in his pursuit of worthy causes.

Pittsburgh used its first-round pick in 1998 to make Faneca the 26th player chosen, and the Steelers never regretted their choice. Neither did Faneca.’

Faneca thanked all three NFL teams for which he played, “every teammate, coach and front office employee…(and) each of the beat writers that covered me throughout my career.”