FOXBOROUGH — Surrounded by so much love and support from his years as a Patriot — family, team owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick, assistant coaches, former teammates, and fans — Kevin Faulk became emotional when talking about someone who was not there.
Faulk announced his retirement Tuesday in a ceremony at the Hall at Patriot Place, concluding a 13-year career, all with New England. A dangerous third-down back who became a team captain, team leader, and the team’s career leader in all-purpose yardage, Faulk was a key member of all three of the Patriots’ Super Bowl-winning teams, helping turn an ordinary franchise into an extraordinary one.
None of it would have been possible, Faulk said, without someone special.
“One person is the reason why I’m here. One person is the reason why I gave 120 percent in everything, and that’s my mom,” Faulk said of Vivian Faulk, who passed away in 2004. “When you’re younger, and you don’t know a lot of things that your parents are telling you, you never understand, you never get it. But you paid attention, and paying attention, and understanding what my mom went through, how she raised us as kids, and to see, and to understand where I am now, I thank God every day, every night.
“For her to show me how to be a man, how to learn from wrong, and make that wrong right some kind of way, that’s the reason why I’m here.”
Kraft and Belichick spoke, and a three-minute video was shown, starting with Faulk lounging on a couch, hearing his name get called in the 1999 NFL Draft, when the Patriots took him with a second-round pick. Touchdowns — he scored 31 as a Patriot — and big plays were featured, spliced with some flattering words from his former teammates.
“Kevin’s one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had, he’s everything you look for in a teammate and a player and a friend,” quarterback Tom Brady said. “He was a mismatch at all times, and no one was more clutch than Kevin.”
Belichick sang a similar tune.
“The bigger the situation, the more critical the play, the better he played and the more you could count on him,” said Belichick, who noted that this year’s Patriots team is the first one he’s coached without Faulk. “I’d say in my coaching career, nobody has ever worked harder to do the things that he was asked to do. Kevin was just so adept at figuring out his role, doing it to the very best that he could. He was the ultimate team player, the hardest worker, always well prepared. I can’t remember asking a question in a team meeting that he didn’t have the right answer to, and I used to try to give him a couple hard ones. He usually aced those.”
Faulk finished his career the team leader in all-purpose yards (12,349), total return yards (5,041), and kick return yards (4,098). He took time to publicly thank those who were in attendance — his wife, Latisha, their three children, Kraft, Belichick, current Patriots (Jerod Mayo, Deion Branch, Devin McCourty), former Patriots (Troy Brown, Sammy Morris), running backs coach Ivan Fears — and others who made an impact on his time with the team. The staffs from the dining room, training room, and weight room, media relations, massage therapists, field preparation crew. Nobody, it seemed, was left out.
He even brought along three friends.
“I know I’m leaving the game of football, but I’m leaving with a little bit of jewelry,” Faulk said. “I would have never thought in a million years that I could ever, ever say that I’d have three of these.”
With that, he took out the Super Bowl rings he won during his time with the Patriots.
He began his remarks by thanking Kraft and the organization for 13 good years. By ending with three oversized rings on his fingers, the jewelry could have served as opulent reminders of how thankful Patriots fans are that Faulk was here for it all.
Michael Whitmer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.