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Former Steelers guard Faneca eager to hear Hall of Fame's decision

| Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017, 7:39 p.m.
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Steelers guard Alan Faneca celebrates late in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks during Super Bowl XL on Feb. 5, 2006, in Detroit, Mich. The Steelers won 21-10.

Alan Faneca was picking up his 5-year-old son from school when he was reached by phone near his home in northern Virginia late Tuesday afternoon.

Two days later, the Faneca family — including wife Julie, two daughters and Burton — were headed to Texas. By Saturday, the five of them will be packed excitedly into a Houston hotel room, anxiously awaiting a knock on the door.

It's a routine the former Steelers' star and his family went through last year at this time. Now in his second season of Pro Football Hall of Fame eligibility and his second time as a finalist, Faneca best describes his emotions regarding Saturday's announcement as “excited anxiousness.”

“I really wished I would have filmed it last year,” Faneca said, “because they do (the Hall of Fame induction announcement) all live on the NFL Honors show, so basically you are getting dressed to go to the NFL Honors show and your kids are bouncing off the walls excited, and we're trying to tie ties and the wife's trying to do her hair and we're all in one tiny little hotel room. It was quite the scene last year. That's how (the NFL) does it now; it's pretty intriguing.”

Faneca will find out Saturday — he must be in his hotel room by 3 p.m., he said — if he's the 25th member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame who primarily did it as a Steeler. Faneca, who six times was a first-team All Pro guard for the Steelers, is one of 15 finalists for induction.

“When you're this close,” Faneca said, “then you start thinking about it a little but more. The, ‘Wow, what if this actually happens?' ”

If it does, it would be the final feather in the cap of a remarkable playing career for Faneca, who was a first-round pick of the Steelers in 1998 and played 10 seasons with the team. He was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 2000s and to the Steelers 75th anniversary all-time team in 2007.

Faneca, who also was a New York Jet in 2008-09 and played his final season with the Arizona Cardinals, was a nine-time Pro Bowler.

All of those honors, though, pale in comparison to that of the timeless designation of Hall of Famer.

“I never let (ultimately being a Hall of Famer) motivate me — but my motivation was always to be the best,” Faneca said. “So I guess in some ways, that's the same goal, but for me it was to be the personal best that I could be. That's what drove me.

“But at the end of the day to be in conversations with the greats in the game is an extreme honor.”

He was known for his instincts, football intelligence and athleticism throughout his career. The image of Faneca pulling to clear the way for Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis is how he'll best be remembered from his playing days. Arguably, the signature play Faneca was involved in was Willie Parker's 75-yard touchdown run on the second play from scrimmage of the second half of Super Bowl XL in 2006.

After Faneca retired, he shed more than 100 pounds and found a new completive outlet: running. Three years ago, he completed the New Orleans Rock N Roll Marathon in 3 hours, 56 minutes, 17 seconds.

Last year, Faneca had a summer coaching internship with the Steelers. Though he has spent the past few years enjoying life as a full-time father and helping coach a high school team, the taste of coaching made him realize he'd like to pursue the profession on a fulltime basis.

“A lot of the things I enjoyed playing-wise kind of carry over to the coaching world,” Faneca said. “The kind of chess match of figuring things out as a player, when your hand's in the dirt and picking out the play and the defense and figuring out where people are going.”

Those things are part of what made Faneca a perennial All-Pro player. Saturday, he'll find out if they made him a Hall of Famer.

Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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