While the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful are celebrating the Hall of Fame induction of one of their own after former outside linebacker Kevin Greene was named as a member of the Class of 2016, another is left waiting, as former guard Alan Faneca failed to make the top 10 finalists in his first year of eligibility.
It has never been the easiest road for an offensive lineman to get into Canton, to be sure, especially for those who do not play on the outside position of tackle facing the premium pass rushers, but if there were a first-ballot guard out there, one might have thought it would be Faneca.
Drafted by the Steelers with the 26th overall pick in the 1998 NFL Draft, Faneca went on to have a very distinguished career, even if it took until his fourth season before he racked up his first token of recognition, making both the Pro Bowl and the first-team All-Pro team for the first time following the 2001 season.
Faneca strung together nine straight Pro Bowl seasons, in fact, from 2001 to 2009, missing the cut again only in his final season with the Cardinals. He made seven Pro Bowls with the Steelers before leaving in free agency to sign with the Jets in 2008, where he continue his Pro Bowl streak for two more seasons.
But he also made eight consecutive All-Pro lists from 2001 to 2008, with six first-team recognitions, the exceptions being the 2003 and 2008 seasons.
A member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team, the ironman finished his career with an active 144-game playing streak at the time of his retirement. He was a Super Bowl champion with the team in 2005 and threw the signature block on the longest run in Super Bowl history, a 75-yard touchdown from Willie Parker.
His 13-year career saw him spend a decade in the Steel city mostly under Bill Cowher before departing in free agency. Despite the fact that he signed a five-year contract with the Jets in 2008, he was released after two seasons as a salary cap casualty, eventually joining many former Steelers teammates in Arizona, including his former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt and offensive line coach Russ Grimm.
There is no doubt in my mind that Faneca will in time be enshrined in Canton for his accomplishments on the football field, an honor that may be bestowed upon him as early as 2017. But though it will be a great honor for him, football is never what defined him, and he has gone on to new things after his retirement.
In the five years since his retirement, Faneca has dropped a significant amount of weight from his playing days, and has even completed a marathon, while spending a good deal of his time working with charities and being an advocate for epilepsy, from which he suffers. Perhaps few have gone on to what Chuck Noll referred to as their life’s work after their retirement with as much contentment as has Faneca, and I am sure he will be content if he has to wait one more year for Canton to call.