Alan Faneca knew patience was the key, and that patience has paid off for him.
In his sixth year of eligibility, Faneca was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2021.
"I want to congratulate Alan Faneca on his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "Without a doubt, Alan was one of the best guards in Steelers history, and one of the best in the NFL during a 13-year career that saw him voted first-team All-Pro six times and to nine Pro Bowls. Alan was unique in that he was big and strong enough to handle interior pass rushers and keep them off our quarterback, but also mobile enough to pull in either direction and lead one of our running backs around the end. In Super Bowl XL, Alan showcased his athletic ability in our victory when he pulled to the right from his left guard spot and made the block that sprung Willie Parker into the secondary on a 75-yard touchdown run that remains a Super Bowl record to this day.
"I am very excited for Alan and his family for this well-deserved individual honor. I am sure it will be a special weekend in Canton for his entire family and for Steelers Nation."
Faneca will join legendary scout Bill Nunn in the Class of 2021, and they will become the 28th and 29th members of the Steelers' organization in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and the team's 25th and 26th major contributors per the Hall of Fame.
"It's amazing. It's awesome," said Faneca. "We've known for a little while now. Going through some of the stuff, the orientation and stuff, it sits on you more and you realize the gravity of it. It leaves me even more speechless. It's exciting. I have been waiting for it for a while."
Faneca, a first team All-Pro selection an impressive six times (2001-02, 2004-07) and twice a second team selection (2003, 2008), was the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1998 and played 10 seasons for the black and gold (1998-2007), and 13 overall in the NFL (New York Jets 2008-09 and Arizona Cardinals 2010).
"His ability to play that position, dominate at that position, but be athletic enough to move around and travel from the standpoint of pulling as an offensive lineman was rare," said Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis. "Usually when you do it, it doesn't end in success. When Alan pulled we had a tremendous amount of success with our ability to pull."
Faneca was a member of the Super Bowl XL Championship team, and during his time the Steelers won four division titles and won at least 10 games in five of his seasons. He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was also named to Steelers All-Time Team in 2007 and the NFL 2000's All-Decade Team.
Faneca was a key to the Steelers ground game, blocking for teams that finished among the NFL's Top 10 in rushing 11 times, and blocking for nine 1,000-yard rushers and five 3,000-yard passers.
"As a left guard one of the staple running plays we had with him was pulling right and he paved the way for a lot of the runs Jerome Bettis had, especially late in games," said Bill Cowher, his former coach who will be inducted as a part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2020 in August. "We knew if we ran left, we ran behind him. If we ran right, we pulled him. We always found a way to make sure he was at the point of attack when we ran a running play.
"He was an integral part of the run game. The guard position, he almost redefined it. He was a guy who could block at the point of attack, but also block in space. We all remember the big run Willie Parker had in Super Bowl XL. It was really Alan at that point of attack. That was what we were able to do with a guy like him. He was a staple. He was a constant. He set the tone. He was a quiet leader on our football team. Without a doubt he was the heart and soul of the offensive line."
Bettis credits Faneca with much of the success he had with the Steelers, knowing it was his blocking that made a difference.
"Alan was critical to my career because whenever we went into a situation where we had an offensive lineman move Alan was always the guy to trap," said Bettis. "He would run the counters or the powers or the traps. He had such versatility as a guard that we could move him. With his athleticism and agility, we were able to move in and create the holes on the opposite side of the line.
"He was a stud on the left side of the line. He gave us the ability to be strong running to the left, or if we wanted to pull linemen, he was the one pulling because of his athleticism.
Photos of Steelers guard Alan Faneca, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021
"It's going to be great being able to sit up on the stage and listen to his speech. He was one of the biggest reasons that I wear a Gold Jacket today. For me to be able to sit and listen to him, talking about all of the people who were special to him, all the while I am thanking him inside because of his tremendous work ethic and ability which helped me get to the Hall of Fame."
Russ Grimm, the Hall of Fame guard with the Washington Redskins and Steelers offensive line coach from 2001-06, isn't surprised Faneca is a Hall of Famer. He actually thought it should have happened sooner.
Grimm loved coaching Faneca, a player who was smart enough that even when Grimm would be showing the offensive line film in the meeting room, going over plays and game plans, and talking up a storm, Faneca would just sit and just listen, barely picking up his pen to take down notes. And it wasn't out of disrespect, not by a longshot.
"You sit in the meeting room and he had his feet up on the desk," recalled Grimm. "When I first got there and I was coaching him, I was thinking is this guy writing anything down. Then he would flip over his book and make a little note. Then, whenever they took a break and left the room, I would look at his notebook. He had all of the little things in there.
"We would go out to practice, and say we had a trick play in or some different type of thing, he would stand there and turn around and watch and see what all the ball carriers were doing, when the receivers were coming around. He wanted to know everything about the play, as far as when he could throw the block in the open field, how far the separation between him and the running back, even the receiver.
"He was one of the smartest, most athletic, easiest guys to coach I ever worked with. I have had some smart guys that played for me. He had to be at the top. He would always set the example by how he played. The guys I had when I was there, I didn't have to worry about it because I knew Alan would take care of the preparation and stuff like that. He was a versatile player, so he gave you a lot of options. His footwork was unbelievable. He was very easy to coach. He was a great player."
And now he is a Hall of Famer.
Steelers Nation Unite members will have the chance to ask Alan Faneca a question during a special Hall of Fame edition of the SNU Huddle on Thursday, Feb. 11 at 12 noon (ET). To learn more on how you can participate, click here >>>
The Class of 2021 will be enshrined, along with the Class of 2020, the weekend of Aug. 5-8. The Class of 2020 includes former Steelers Troy Polamalu and Donnie Shell and Coach Bill Cowher.