When you hear “2012 NFL Draft” the first names that you think of are probably Andrew Luck, RG3, Trent Richardson, Mo Claiborne, or Justin Blackmon. And rightfully so; these five young men played for some of the biggest programs in college football. This time of year when you played for a powerhouse your name becomes a powerhouse.
But hundreds of young men, just as talented, play for much smaller programs in much smaller conferences. You’re about to meet one of them.
A player who was a regional defensive player of the year, conference defensive player of the year, and an All-American. The reason you haven’t heard of him is quite simple: he plays for a Division III school.
That player’s name is Chad Faulcon, a safety from Montclair State in New Jersey. When you put on the tape of Faulcon, you see not only a player who is fast, instinctive, and hard-hitting; but a young man who plays with a heart bigger than any Big 10 lineman.
Chad’s journey to the 2012 NFL Draft wasn’t conventional, and it certainly wasn’t expected. But there was one distinct trait that set Chad aside from other football players – he was determined to be the best football player he could be; not for the glitz and glory, but for the pure love of the game.
Chad Faulcon was born on December 21, 1989 in Cranford, New Jersey where he remained until he left for college. Growing up, Chad always loved football. Like many prospects he began playing early – in fourth grade as a running back. Chad admitted he wasn’t “very good” until high school. In fact, he told me his best friend’s mom didn’t even remember him playing in middle school. He was 5’10”, 165 Lbs. and easy to overlook. In high school Chad switched to safety his junior year, both out of necessity for Cranford High and because as small as Chad was he loved to tackle. When it was time for college, the offers didn’t come in the way they did for other kids due to Chad’s grades. So, he enrolled at nearby Montclair State.
Long time Red Hawks coach Rick Giancola knew instantly there was something special about Chad. His raw talent made it hard for the coach to believe Chad did not receive offers from Division I programs, but it would take a couple seasons to really understand how valuable Chad Faulcon was on the field and in the locker room.
The popular assumption that small-school players can’t and won’t cut it in the NFL is just that – an assumption, and an incorrect one at that. Bart Scott (Southern Illinois), London Fletcher (John Carroll), and Donald Driver (Alcorn State) are just three of the many players from small schools who are current NFL players, and that’s not mentioning one of the greatest players of all time, Jerry Rice (Mississippi Valley State). Obviously there are more Div I/FBS players than non-FBS, but it doesn’t mean they are any less of a player. When you play Division III, you have fewer scouts watching you, fewer agents trying to sign you, and less exposure to NFL teams.
Chad Faulcon is no different in that regard. A year ago Chad had no expectations to play in the NFL. He told me “If you asked me a year ago what I’d be doing right now, I’d have told you I was preparing to be a teacher, not preparing for a shot at the NFL.” That statement is what makes his film even more remarkable. He had no expectations; no one told him he was going to be an NFL draft pick if he played hard. Chad just wanted to be the best football player he could be, and he was willing to put in the work it would take to be just that. When his senior campaign was over he was Division III East Region Defensive Player of the Year, New Jersey Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year and was named to the d3Football.com All American Team.
Earlier in the season, Coach Giancola contacted one of his former players and told him that Chad was special. Fred Definis took one look and agreed.
After the Red Hawks season ended, Definis signed Chad to Brown Brothers Management, and co-founder Bobby Brown, Esq. quickly contacted Joe DeFranco to become Chad’s trainer. The famed DeFranco Training Gym only accepts 12 players at a time, and had one remaining spot open. After looking at the safety’s tape and speaking with Fred and Bobby, Joe accepted Chad as his final participant for 2012. Joe’s goal was to add weight to Chad’s 190 Lbs without losing any of his 4.45 speed.
With a month of training at DeFranco’s under Chad’s belt, Definis contacted Trey Randall, director of Scouting Operations for Gridiron Scouting Southwest and Player Personnel Director for Eastern Kentucky Drillers of the AFL. He took the tape to John Murphy, the assistant GM of the Calgary Stampede, who had organized the Player’s All Star Classic in Little Rock. Murphy asked Randall, “How do I get this kid?”
72 hours later Faulcon was in Arkansas, but his equipment was not. Montclair State had sent the season worn pads out for cleaning so the school sent an extra set – one far too large for Chad’s frame. Chad suited up and practiced that week with players from major programs such as Michigan State, Penn State, Oklahoma, and LSU among others. Chad wasn’t overwhelmed – to him this was a chance to show that his talent is major. His work ethic is imaginable. His attitude is immeasurable.
Chad turned heads in Little Rock, both in practice and during the game. He recorded seven tackles, two pass break ups, an interception, and forced a fumble – all while wearing pads too big for his body. At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, a scout asked Bobby Brown, “Is that the kid with the big shoulder pads?” Teams had taken notice, and Brown was okay with the kid being known for his oversized equipment; he knew once they saw his film he’d be known for much more.
After his tape Chad’s attitude was the second thing that struck me. We talked after a day of classes and training. He was quiet, yet energetic. He was confident, but not cocky. Humble has never been more personified. In fact, Chad never mentioned in any conversation I had with him that his teammates voted him team captain, but Coach Giancola was quick to point it out to me, adding “That’s Chad. It doesn’t surprise me he didn’t tell you”.
Chad Faulcon has a lot on his plate, as do many other prospects. Along with training and classes he has had workouts with teams, listening to all the advice he has received, and soaking up every tip on improving Beasley has shown him. At Defranco’s earlier this month, he caught the attention of a few NFL players who were also training there. Joe said that Chad wasn’t overwhelmed by the pros; he just went about his business, like Chad does.
Coach Giancola told me repeatedly that Chad is special. Not just on the field, but off. His humble, hard working attitude is one of the best that Giancola has ever seen, and said Chad was well liked by his teammates for his “lead by example” mentality. Coach Giancola said a player like Faulcon doesn’t come along every day, the same words echoed by everyone I spoke with.
He is aware that not being drafted is a possibility. After talking about that scenario one night I posed the question, “Well, what are you going to do?” He answered, “Keep working, keep training, graduate, and hopefully get invited to a camp. I’m not giving up if I don’t get drafted. I got a real taste [of the possibility of playing in the NFL] and I’m not willing to let it go yet”.
Trey Randall scouts hundreds of players every year, both big and small school prospects. When asked what made Chad jump out at him, he said “His range, his closing speed, his explosion, his burst. He’s just special”.
Several NFL teams think Faulcon is special too. He has had workouts and interviews with several teams who have all said they can’t believe a player as talented as Faulcon played Division III football. The resounding sentiment with everyone who has seen his tape, worked with him, and coached him is simple: Chad is special. Chad is hard working. Chad can make a roster. Chad just needs a shot.
With a safety class that is not very deep a team will give Chad Faulcon a shot. When you hit an NFL camp, those guys don’t care what school you went to. They don’t care about your National Championship ring. Some of them are small school players themselves. When you hit an NFL camp you are all rookies, and you are all equal.
Finally, Chad Faulcon will no longer be weighted down by the Div III tag, or the presumption that he can’t play in the NFL because of it. He will be judged by the one thing that everyone who has seen him play has said, “He is special”.
The team that signs him will have gotten quite the player, one who leaves it all out on the field whether at practice or in a game, who strives to be the best he can be; not for the glitz and glory, but for the pure love of the game.
“Obviously, Chad’s closing speed jumps off the tape and was a force against the run. He covered a lot of ground & quickly. I see him as an in the box strong safety and would fit well with a team that was conscious of the need of having a free ranging run stuffer. “ – NFL Sout, Jayson Braddock
Dory LeBlanc, co-hosts NFL Draft Cheat Sheet on RotoRadio and freelances for BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You may email Dory at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter @DoryLeBlanc