It's been a whirlwind of a week for Alan Faneca, the former Steelers guard who was just elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021.
And he doesn't mind one bit.
"It's been amazing. A great ride," said Faneca. "After sitting on it for two weeks, getting to scream out loud, talk to people I wanted to, hearing from every person I have known from every aspect of my life since I was eight years old."
Faneca is still talking to people, and on Thursday he took part in the Steelers Nation Unite Huddle, talking with members and taking their questions.
It was a chance for him to reflect back on his career, share the emotions he has gone through, and even dish out some advice to young fans, which was to "keep learning and shoot high."
The best part, though, was him sharing what it meant to be elected into the Hall of Fame in his sixth year as a finalist.
"I am excited," said Faneca. "When you don't make it those years, it keeps adding and building. It's not fun. It's not fun for the whole family. When you get in, it's like it never happened. The excitement that is going on now is what you are expecting and what made it hurt when you didn't get in. I am not the first, last or the guy who waited the longest. Getting in you really forget all of those days."
There are days, though, he will never forget. Faneca was asked by one of the SNU members what his greatest time with the Steelers was. The answer was easy…the win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
"That journey to the Super Bowl," said Faneca. "That stretch run right there was the most exciting time. What I miss most is the guys in the locker room. That was just a great time bonding, building, growing together. That journey was an amazing one and ended up with a Super Bowl trophy."
Faneca, who currently is serving as an assistant coach at Cox High School in Virginia Beach working with the offensive line, hit on an array of topics such as who the biggest character on the team was (Jerome Bettis), toughest opponent he faced (Warren Sapp), how he spends his free time (learning woodworking), how he slimmed down after his playing days and how he dealt with his epilepsy while playing football.
But the main conversation was about making it to the Hall of Fame, including what he did after Hall of Fame President David Baker visited him in Virginia Beach to share the news that he made it.
"I just stood there," said Faneca. "Everyone was standing around me. I pretty much felt like I was floating. We had a tight knit group of friends we were able to celebrate with. We had a blast. We hit the fire pit outside and told stories and laughed all night long."
Faneca admitted he misses the games, the locker room aspect of the game, but not preparing for game day.
"I do miss the game," said Faneca. "It's so fun. Where else can you do your job in front of 80,000?"
Anyone who watched Super Bowl XL definitely remembers the block Faneca threw to set up Willie Parker for his 75-yard touchdown run. But there were so many more plays in his career that stood out, so many games where he dominated, including a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2003 when he got the best of linebacker Adrian Ross, who actually signed with the Steelers during training camp the next year but didn't make the final roster.
"I got him three times," said Faneca. "He didn't see me coming and I got him good. Coach (Bill) Cowher nominated me for (AFC Offensive) Player of the Week, and especially for those three blocks I got against him. He was on our team in training camp and everyone was razzing him, and he had to get up and address it because of the jokes coming his way."
In August, Faneca will be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with legendary scout Bill Nunn, as members of the Class of 2021, and Bill Cowher, Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell as members of the Class of 2020. It's still surreal to him, because when he started playing football, the Hall of Fame was something he never even thought of.
"I just wanted to play big time college football," said Faneca. "When I got into college the goal was to get in the NFL. As things progressed, my offensive line coach (Hal Hunter) pulled me aside and starting setting goals when we had a goals meeting. At the very end of his list was HOF. At the time I didn't know it stood for Hall of Fame. I hadn't really thought about it. We got a good joke about it this past weekend.
"I took that and was always setting goals. I kept a notebook every year, all 13 seasons, and I still have them. I would flip the cover and write goals down, make the Hall of Fame, something I need to do better. I was always writing goals down."
And now, he has reached the ultimate goal.