Alan Faneca allowed just two sacks in his incredible 13-year NFL career.
He also never missed a start in his final nine seasons in the National Football League.
When Faneca hung up his cleats in 2011, he had won a Super Bowl title with the Pittsburgh Steelers, earned nine Pro Bowl berths, and became a six-time First-Team All-Pro selection.
Remarkably, Alan Faneca has been battling epilepsy since he was just fifteen years old.
Some thirty years later, he became a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s 2021 class.
Faneca is living proof no obstacle is too big if you put in the work and remain resilient no matter what life throws at you.
Alan Joseph Faneca, Jr. was born in New Orleans, LA to parents Alan and Liane on December 7, 1976.
He has a sister named Cheryl.
Faneca went to John Curtis Christian School in Jefferson Parish, LA, a town that is almost 30 miles south of the Big Easy.
He suited up for the John Curtis Patriots basketball and football teams during his middle and junior high school days in Louisiana from 1987 to 1990.
Even back then, Faneca was already a rabid LSU Tigers football fan. In fact, he adorned his room with various LSU Purple and Gold apparel.
The Faneca family moved to Rosenburg, TX, a city that is approximately 35 miles west of Houston, at the turn of the decade.
He attended Lamar Consolidated High School in his new city.
Alan Faneca suited up for the Lamar Mustangs as an offensive lineman under head football coach Don Landes during the remainder of his high school playing days.
Faneca was also a track and field star and discus thrower at Lamar Consolidated High School.
Faneca experienced a life-changing moment during his freshman year of high school.
He discovered he had epilepsy.
Faneca told The Advocate’s Scott Rabalais several days after he was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2021 he made the discovery at his grandmother’s house on Christmas Eve when he was just fifteen years old.
Faneca told Rabalais he was “wandering around the house crying, not knowing what happened.”
The mysterious event kept recurring.
Alan Faneca @afan66 is a Super Bowl champ & now a Hall of Famer..
— Pat McAfee (@PatMcAfeeShow) August 13, 2021
Faneca underwent many tests in the ensuing months. After his doctor confirmed the epilepsy diagnosis, he was prescribed medication to manage the seizures so the young Faneca could continue playing football.
Faneca recalled the doctor saying he could resume his football career so quickly, that he had to ask him again.
As soon as the doctor obliged, Faneca bolted for the door.
Faneca told Eric Allen of the New York Jets’ official website during his playing days with Gang Green he has petit mal epilepsy.
This kind of epilepsy lasts for several seconds and occurs without warning.
“I take six pills a day – two pills three times a day, every day,” Faneca told Allen. “As long as I’m on my medication, I’m fine. If I forget to take it for several doses, I would have a seizure.”
Despite Faneca’s epilepsy diagnosis, he continued playing at a high level.
Faneca blocked for two 1,000-yard rushers as a senior.
With Faneca opening up holes for the running backs and protecting the quarterback, the Mustangs went 11-1-1 and earned a semifinal berth in the state playoffs in his senior year.
He played so well he earned 1993 Greater Houston Offensive Player of the Year honors from the Houston Touchdown Club, per The Advocate.
The Dallas Morning News and Houston Chronicle rated Faneca one of Texas’ top 100 high school football players.
The Houston Chronicle and Houston Post named Faneca to the All-Greater Houston team.
Alan Faneca would return to The Pelican State and suit up for one of the most successful college football programs in the nation.
College Days With LSU Tigers
Alan Faneca, the staunch LSU Tigers football fan, ironically committed to their SEC rivals, the Alabama Crimson Tide, some twenty-four hours before National Signing Day in 1994.
Faneca had a change of heart the following day and committed to LSU instead.
He redshirted as a true freshman in the 1994 NCAA season.
The Tigers posted a disappointing 4-7 win-loss record that year.
They averaged four wins per season and never received a bowl invite in head football coach Curley Hallman’s four years at the helm.
To nobody’s surprise, LSU fired Hallman and replaced him with Gerry DiNardo.
Faneca took the field for his redshirt freshman year in the 1995 NCAA campaign.
Faneca started all of the Tigers’ eleven games at right guard. He also participated in 762 plays from scrimmage in the 1995 NCAA campaign – the most of any Tigers offensive player, per their official athletics website.
Despite being just a redshirt freshman, Alan Faneca already proved his value to the LSU squad.
With Faneca helping protect quarterback Jamie Howard and opening up holes for running backs Kevin Faulk and Kendall Cleveland, LSU scored an average of 27 points per game in 1995.
The Tigers’ offense, which was ranked 55th in the nation (24.5 ppg) in 1994, was the 40th-ranked offense in the country that year.
LSU went 7-4-1 in DiNardo’s first year calling the shots.
Better yet, the Tigers ended their six-year bowl drought.
LSU beat the Michigan State Spartans in the Independence Bowl on December 29, 1995, 45-26.
The Knoxville News-Sentinel named Faneca to its Freshman All-SEC Team in 1995.
Faneca took his game to greater heights during his redshirt sophomore season at LSU.
He started all eleven games at right guard for the second straight year.
According to LSU Tigers offensive line coach Hal Hunter, Faneca graded at least 90 percent in 712 snaps when he took the field in 1996.
Faneca even made a tackle on a Houston Cougars player during a fumble recovery return in LSU’s season opener on September 7, 1996.
The Tigers squeaked by the Cougars, 35-34.
— Lonn Phillips Sullivan (@LonnPhillips) February 7, 2021
With Faneca bolstering the offensive line, LSU enjoyed its best season in nine years. The Tigers won ten of twelve games in the 1996 NCAA season.
The 17th-ranked LSU Tigers beat the Clemson Tigers in the 1996 Peach Bowl in a low-scoring affair, 10-7.
Faneca earned consensus First-Team All-SEC honors as a right guard at the end of the 1996 NCAA campaign.
Football News named him a Second-Team All-American.
The same publication also named him to its First-Team All-SEC lineup.
For his part, DiNardo was impressed with Faneca’s exemplary work ethic.
“He was a quiet guy, not a vocal leader,” he told the New Orleans Times-Piacayune’s Jim Kleinpeter (via LSUSports.net). “Everyone looked at him and really respected how hard he worked, how attentive to detail he was.”
Faneca continued his exemplary play on the gridiron in his redshirt junior season in 1997.
He graded out at higher than 90 percent that year, per LSUSports.net.
Faneca was a stonewall on the offensive line: he allowed just one sack all season long.
Not only that, but he also displayed his versatility by playing tackle when the situation called for it.
In fact, he played both guard and tackle in LSU’s season-opening 55-3 blowout win against the UTEP Miners in September 1997.
Faneca duplicated the incredible feat in the Tigers’ 36-21 loss to the Ole Miss Rebels on October 18, 1997.
He wound up starting all 36 of his games in LSU Purple and Gold at right guard.
Faneca would continue showing incredible durability and versatility during his National Football League career several years later.
LSU went 9-3 in Faneca’s last year in Baton Rouge.
He went out with a bang as the 15th-ranked Tigers beat the Notre Dame Fighting Irish in the Independence Bowl on December 28, 1997, 27-9.
At the end of Alan Faneca’s college football career, he earned consensus All-American honors and became one of three Outland Trophy finalists.
The Associated Press, Football News, the Football Writers Association of America, Sporting News, and Walter Camp Foundation all named Faneca a First-Team All-American in 1997.
Faneca also won the 1997 Jacobs Award as the SEC’s best blocker that year.
Alan Faneca’s various accolades were indicative of the kind of pro football career he’d have.
He would eventually enjoy a stellar 13-year career in the pro ranks and become immortalized in Canton several years down the line.
Pro Football Career
The Pittsburgh Steelers are a proud franchise that has won six Super Bowl titles.
The Steelers won an average of almost eleven games a year in head coach Bill Cowher’s first six seasons.
Pittsburgh won eleven games in the 1997 NFL season but lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC title game in heartbreaking fashion, 24-21.
The loss extended the Steelers’ Super Bowl title drought to 18 years.
Shoring up their offensive line in 1998 with a game changer like Alan Faneca could change that trend.
The Steelers made Faneca the 26th overall selection of the 1998 NFL Draft.
Faneca didn’t take the field that much in his first four games as a rookie.
However, injuries to Jim Sweeney and Will Wolford allowed Faneca to make his first NFL start against the Cincinnati Bengals on October 11, 1998.
Unfortunately, the Bengals prevailed, 25-20.
Faneca eventually earned the Joe Greene Award as the Steeler’s top rookie in 1998.
The Steelers took a major step backward that year.
They won just seven games and missed the postseason for the first time since the 1991 NFL campaign.
Faneca had his share of struggles – he sustained an ankle injury and played sparingly against the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens.
A month later, Faneca and the Steelers’ offensive line helped open up holes for running back Jerome Bettis who recorded his first 100-yard game of the year in a 17-3 road win over the Bengals.
Regrettably, there were more lowlights than highlights for the Steelers in 1999 – Pittsburgh won just six games and bowed out of playoff contention yet again.
Alan Faneca was a DAWG! 🤯 He popped a dudes entire helmet off.. pic.twitter.com/B6q8lOjA91
— The Big Guy (@WeAreBigGuys) January 10, 2020
Faneca and his fellow Steelers offensive linemen helped Bettis gain 1,341 yards on the ground.
Pittsburgh racked up 2,248 rushing yards in 2000 – the fourth-best total in the league.
The Steelers won nine games but failed to contend for a postseason berth for the third consecutive year.
Alan Faneca had yet to taste postseason football entering his fourth pro season in Western Pennsylvania.
That would all change in the 2001 NFL season.
Faneca’s stint in Pittsburgh from 2001 to 2008 were the best in his professional football career.
Not only did Faneca earn eight consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl during that stretch, but the Steelers also made it to the postseason in six of those eight years.
Better yet, Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl Trophy during the peak of Alan Faneca’s NFL career.
Faneca earned his only Super Bowl ring after the Steelers beat the upstart Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, 21-10.
The win ended Pittsburgh’s twenty-six-year Super Bowl title drought.
Interestingly enough, Faneca didn’t think too highly of Steelers legendary quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during the latter’s rookie season in 2004.
When Steelers starting quarterback Tommy Maddox damaged a ligament in his right elbow on September 21, 2004, he was forced to miss the next six weeks.
Cowher started Roethlisberger in his place.
Faneca, the Steelers’ cop-captain, was none too pleased.
“Exciting?” he told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (via ESPN). “No, it’s not exciting. Do you want to go work with some little young kid who’s just out of college?”
A year later, Roethlisberger started for the Steelers in their Super Bowl XL win over Seattle.
Faneca helped free up running back Willie Parker for a 75-yard touchdown run in that game.
It remains the longest run in Super Bowl history.
The Steelers won an average of nine games over the next two seasons.
They lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Josh Scobee’s 25-yard field goal with just 37 seconds remaining on the game clock.
The Jaguars prevailed, 31-29.
It was also Alan Faneca’s last game in Steelers Black and Gold.
— Blitzburgh 🎄 (@BlitzVideos) January 30, 2020
After a decade of excellence in the Steel City, Alan Faneca took his act to Broadway.
He signed a lucrative five-year, $40 million contract with the New York Jets on March 2, 2008.
The deal made Faneca the NFL’s highest-paid offensive lineman at the time.
Faneca bolstered a Jets offensive line that featured fellow first-round draft picks D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Nick Mangold, and Damien Woody.
He also helped protect legendary Jets quarterback Brett Favre and open up holes for running back Thomas Jones.
Faneca, who played left guard, helped the Jets amass 2,006 rushing yards and 20 rushing touchdowns.
He also helped the Jets increase their win total from four in 2007 to nine in the 2008 NFL campaign.
Despite Faneca’s best efforts, the Jets didn’t qualify for the postseason in 2008.
They duplicated their 9-7 win-loss record behind stellar offensive line play and a prolific running game that racked up an impressive 2,756 yards in 2009.
Faneca also earned his second consecutive Pro Bowl nod with the Jets that year.
The Jets eventually reached the 2009 AFC Championship Game against Peyton Manning’s Indianapolis Colts.
Unfortunately, the Colts ended Gang Green’s remarkable postseason run with a resounding 30-17 victory.
It was also Alan Faneca’s last game in a New York Jets uniform.
The Jets released him on April 24, 2010 after they drafted UMass Minutemen guard Vladimir Ducasse that month.
Faneca agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals just four days later.
The Cardinals won just five games in the 2010 NFL season after reaching Super Bowl XLIII just two years earlier.
After playing out the one-year deal with Arizona, thirty-five-year-old Alan Faneca announced his retirement from the National Football League on May 10, 2011.
Remarkably, Alan Faneca allowed just two sacks in his remarkable 13-year NFL career.
Faneca was a modern-day iron man: he started 201 of 206 career games in the pro ranks. He also started all 16 games every year in his last nine seasons in the NFL.
Aside from Faneca’s Super Bowl ring and nine Pro Bowl berths, he was also a six-time First-Team All-Pro and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro selection.
Alan Faneca looks back on his time in Black & Gold. pic.twitter.com/yhozvNfM1h
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 3, 2017
Fans voted Faneca into the Pittsburgh Steelers All-Time Team in 2007.
He’s also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.
Faneca and his wife Julie have three children.
Faneca told the New York Jets’ official website in 2008 his daughter Anabelle Kathryn also has epilepsy.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, it’s a form of epilepsy known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome.
He moved his family to the Washington D.C. area so they have access to Anabelle’s specialist.
During his playing days with the Pittsburgh Steelers, Faneca played an active role with the Epilepsy Foundation.
Several Steelers fans who are involved with the foundation dubbed themselves “Faneca’s Fanatics.”
— SportsNation (@SportsNation) February 5, 2014
Faneca, whose playing weight peaked at 316 lbs., shed 30 lbs. after he retired from the gridiron in 2010.
That year, the thirty-six-year-old retired lineman was playing on the floor with his daughter Anabelle.
When he got up, he realized he didn’t groan the way retired and overweight linemen typically do, per ESPN’s Greg Garber.
Faneca told Garber he was “anal” about shedding pounds after he had played his last down on the football field.
Faneca went on a caloric-deficient program where he consumed no more than 2,000 calories and burned an average of 4,000 calories daily through intense cardiovascular exercise.
He eventually lost an impressive 70 lbs. in three months. At the time of Faneca’s interview with ESPN in 2010, he weighed 220 lbs. and was training for a marathon.
Faneca ran the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon in three hours, fifty-six minutes, and thirty-four seconds on February 2, 2014, per Kleinpeter.
Coincidentally, it was also the day the Seattle Seahawks beat the Denver Broncos for their first Super Bowl title, 43-8.
Back then, Faneca had already lost more than 100 lbs. of his playing weight of 316 lbs.
Faneca decided to join his wife Julie for a run at City Park in the Big Easy one beautiful fall afternoon.
The couple ran seven miles. It started Alan Faneca’s fascination for running marathons and staying in shape during his post-retirement years.
The Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame inducted Faneca on June 21, 2014.
“It’s a great honor and it took me completely by surprise,” Faneca told Kleinpeter.
Other Steelers legends who joined Faneca in the Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Honor that year were Rocky Bleier, Art Rooney, Jr., Bill Nunn, and Buddy Dial.
Hines Ward presents Alan Faneca for enshrinement! @steelers
— NFL (@NFL) August 9, 2021
Alan Faneca was a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Class of 2021.
His Steelers teammate and fellow NFL Draft Class of 1998 member Hines Ward was his presenter.
Part of Faneca’s enshrinement speech reads:
“Whatever one’s challenge in this life, disability or not, my message is always to maintain an integral commitment to not let anything stop us from fulfilling our vision.”
“Be resilient. We all get knocked down in life. But it’s how we get up that matters.”
In the aftermath of Faneca’s induction, he told the Lafayette Daily Adviser’s Adam Sparks he didn’t let anything – including epilepsy – stand in the way of his dream of getting a bust in Canton.
“I instinctively knew that I was not going to let anything prevent me from fulfilling this dream.”
“I have always told myself, and spoken about the fact, that epilepsy is part of me. But it does not define me. We are in charge of our destiny.”
Cox coach Alan Faneca talks about the team’s 31-0 win over Tallwood. pic.twitter.com/FULTgvDztr
— Ray Nimmo (@Ray_Nimmo) October 23, 2021
Faneca is currently the head football coach of the Cox Falcons, a high school football team based in Virginia Beach, VA.