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Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009 | This is one of those now-it-can-be-told stories.

Marshall Faulk decided to tell the tale with a couple of former San Diego State teammates among the audience of a 1,000 when he was inducted into the Breitbard Hall of Fame for San Diego athletes Wednesday at the Town and Country Hotel.

For all the shallow rituals that go into the game of college recruiting — selling high school kids on shiny facilities, the campus, the tradition or girls crossing campus to class on a warm, sunny day — Faulk told a refreshing story that shows sometimes it’s what’s overlooked that wins over an important recruit.

That can be true even for an athlete the stature of Faulk, San Diego State’s three-time All-American running back and 1992 Heisman Trophy runner-up whose next stop is the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Anyone that follows the Aztecs knows the story of how Faulk picked SDSU over all the big-time programs across the country that wanted him. Other schools saw him as a cornerback, but Faulk wanted to play running back, and San Diego State agreed to give him the chance.

“They weren’t crazy,” Faulk said of then-Nebraska coach Tom Osborne and coaches at other elite schools recruiting him to play defense. “I was OK; I was better than OK.”

Then he broke into an impish grin as he told the story about how Ray Peterson, his high school rival in New Orleans and teammate at SDSU, was the only player to score a touchdown on him as a high school cornerback. Two decades later Faulk still wasn’t giving an inch to Peterson.

“That was a pick play they ran for a touchdown, Ray,” Faulk said with mock indignation. “A little cheap pick play you guys ran.”

Even though Faulk said he had told his high school coach the first college that offered him a chance to play running back is where he was headed, he shed a little more light on his final decision to sign a national letter-of-intent with San Diego State.

He talked about how former SDSU teammate Robert Griffith, a Mount Miguel High alum that went on to play 13 years in the NFL as a safety, was his host for the recruiting weekend. Faulk said Griffith told him something that sealed the deal so that no other school could sway his decision.

“There’s an interesting story about when I came to San Diego, and I’ve never told the guy, thank you,” Faulk said. “When you visit a school, guys show you around school and show you all the good stuff.

“Griff showed me around and then he sat me down. He said, ‘Listen, it’s rough here sometimes; things aren’t always how they’re supposed to be. But if you come here, you’ll get a good education and you’ll be playing with guys that love playing together.’ “

Faulk paused as he looked into an audience with Griffith and other San Diego sports fans.

“I said, ‘That’s cool. If you can be honest like that, I can play with these guys.’ “

Faulk made millions of dollars playing pro football with the Indianapolis Colts and St. Louis Rams, he won a Super Bowl ring in the 1999 season, he was the NFL MVP in the 2000 season and his stature landed him a post-playing days career on the NFL Network as an analyst.

But Faulk, who makes his home in San Diego now that he’s retired, kept coming back to San Diego State allowing him to play running back.

“I’m privileged,” Faulk said. “But in order for me to be privileged, first I got the opportunity to play at San Diego State in front of all you. Marshall isn’t the second pick of the draft if San Diego State doesn’t give him the opportunity to follow his dream and play running back.”

Imagine that. Honesty was the ticket.

Tom Shanahan is voiceofsandiego.org‘s sports columnist. He is the media coordinator for the San Diego Hall of Champions and an occasional writer for Chargers.com. You can e-mail him at toms@sdhoc.com. Or send a letter to the editor.

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