When Jerome Bettis stood on the stage at the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2015, he thanked many who meant the most to him in life and in his playing career.
While he would have loved to have thanked every teammate, he knew time was limited. So, he thanked five. Five that had an impact on him. Five that made a difference.
And the first one was his former guard, Alan Faneca.
"I mentioned Alan because he was an elite offensive lineman, one of the best I ever played with," said Bettis. "He is worthy of being in the Hall of Fame as well because of his exceptional play and his extended length of greatness."
Faneca is a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2021, a class that will be announced on Saturday, Feb. 6, during the NFL Honors Awards show.
This is the sixth year that Faneca has been a finalist, and there are many in his corner who strongly feel that he should take his rightful spot among the best ever to play the game.
"Alan is more than deserving to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame," said Dermontti Dawson of his former teammate. "I told him I knew you were going to be a good player the first time you came in as a rookie. Most guys don't come in that seasoned like he was. He was quick, strong, and knowledgeable. He had all of the attributes. Some guys struggle when they come in with the system, trying to learn the system, technique wise. Alan came right in and was a perfect fit. There was no slack at all. He came in and did his thing.
"You knew he had the makings of a phenomenal player and it played out that way."
Take a look at some of the best photos of G Alan Faneca
While Bettis and Dawson might be a little biased, Ravens' Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis isn't. Lewis battled Faneca, and it was those battles that make him realize Faneca should have his rightful spot in Canton, Ohio.
"He was one of the guards that he controlled the tempo of the front seven," said Lewis. "That's what made him dominant. And when you start to learn guards, which a lot of linebackers don't understand guards, he was the leader in that group. He says, 'This is how we do this, this is how we do that.' I am telling you, you start to watch his technique. His climb, first level second level, boom! Quick! You are like, 'What the…' You are telling your defensive linemen, 'Stay on him. Don't let him climb up to me.' But that is what Alan was so good at. He was so dominant in how he could combo block. We called it combo: touch a man, move. When you can influence that much of a defensive line, you are going to have problems on the backend when you talk about the secondary.
"I am telling you, man, in Pittsburgh games when The Bus (Bettis) and all of these guys coming down hill, if Alan is on you, you have to figure out a way to get around him and then deal with them. It is probably not going to end well. Probably seven or eight yards down the field. I think him being so smart in that box, a lot of people don't know how much calculation goes on in that box. In that box is what made Alan so dominant. He understood levels, he understood how much he has to give a rub, how much not, how fast he has to climb. A lot of linemen you can just beat because they come up and just look at you and try to figure you out. He doesn't have to figure you out because he has everyone on one chain. Alan was dominant. He was dominant.
"I think a Hall of Famer is somebody who truly has the career that inspires others to be like them. To be great. And every time he stepped on the field…he was great."