Long before most folks knew who Marshall Faulk was, Pacific got a real good idea of the type of player Faulk would become.
On Sept. 14, 1991, Faulk rushed for 386 yards on 37 carries and seven -- that's right, seven -- touchdowns for San Diego State as the Aztecs cruised to a 55-34 victory against the Tigers. The 386 yards rushing is still an NCAA record for rushing yards in a game by a freshman. Faulk eclipsed the old record -- 322 yards by Florida's State's Greg Allen -- by the end of the third quarter.
At the time, it was also the record for most rushing yards in a game by anyone. However, that mark now sits at 406 yards by another pretty good football player, LaDainian Tomlinson for TCU.
Still in all, it was a heck of a night for Faulk. The performance still houses school records for most rushing touchdowns in a game and most yards in a game.
Imagine what he could have accomplished had he started that night.
Faulk replaced injured SDSU starter T.C. Wright, who suffered a bruised thigh late in the first quarter. Before that evening, all indications were that Faulk was going to get little playing time during his freshman season. Wright reportedly got most of the reps in practice.
"I didn't even run the scout team," Faulk said in a 2011 interview with recordnet.com.
However, Faulk told the website that he did what he needed to do before his big moment came to be prepared for it when it did.
"They told me you never know when that opportunity is going to present itself," Faulk said. "When it comes, you have to be prepared."
And being prepared on that evening led to what Faulk told the website was a launching point for his legendary career.
"I'm asked when did I know if I could play football at the next level," he said, "and that game was the one that gave me the confidence to believe I could play at the next level."
And boy, could he ever.
In three seasons with the Aztecs, Faulk ran for 4,589 yards on 766 carries (5.99 average) and 57 touchdowns. Faulk caught for 973 more yards and five more TDs. As a sophomore in 1992, he finished second to Miami's Gino Torretta in the Heisman Trophy balloting in a season when the Aztecs went 5-5-1.
Wright, a senior running back for the Aztecs at the time of his injury, saw his contributions go from back-up running back to Faulk to punt returns once he came back. So upset was Wright with his situation that when he was asked to come into a game against Hawaii in October of that season, he refused."I gave them a reason to start [Faulk], I guess," Wright told the Los Angeles Times. "That's what they told me. But I'm a senior. I've put in my time here. Believe it or not, I did earn a job here in the spring and fall."
Wright went on to play two seasons in NFL Europe for the Amsterdam Admirals, rushing for a total of 693 yards in 159 carries with five touchdowns.
As for Pacific, the Tigers' final football season came in 1995. According to the school's website, "the costs of running a Division 1A team prohibited the continuation of the program at that level."
Meanwhile, Faulk's legacy jumped to another level in the NFL. In a dozen seasons, five with the Indianapolis Colts and seven with the St. Louis Rams, Faulk rushed for 12,279 yards and 100 touchdowns. He caught for 6,875 yards and 36 touchdowns.
In 2011, Faulk was named to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In his enshrinement speech, Faulk talked about how he ended up with the Aztecs.
"People often ask me, 'Why did I choose San Diego State?' I tell them San Diego State chose me," Faulk said. "The wide receiver coach for the San Diego State Aztecs, now coach for the New Orleans Saints, Curtis Johnson, a New Orleans native. He was in town on a recruiting trip at our game, recruiting another player. He saw my tape, took that tape back to [then-SDSU head coach Al] Luginbill and Coach Luginbill said, 'We need to have this kid.'
"While going through the recruiting process, they were the first school to offer me an opportunity to play running back. I had been a high school All-American defensive back and just a running back who had not received a lot of attention because I played too many positions on offense.
"Coach Luginbill, thank you for giving me the opportunity to develop and hone my skills while playing football at SDSU."