NEW YORK — Marshall Faulk is no stranger to the bright lights of the biggest stage. The Hall of Fame running back is a Super Bowl champion (St. Louis Rams, XXXIV) and now serves as an analyst for the NFL Network. During his 12-year career, Faulk helped change the game for running backs thanks to the Rams’ “Greatest Show on Turf” offense. He dazzled fans en route to 12,280 career rushing yards, 136 career touchdowns, two Super Bowls, and seven Pro Bowls.

During Super Bowl Week, Faulk is in New York to help cover the game for NFL Network and to join Verizon for a unique initiative utilizing the iconic lights of the Empire State Building. Verizon and the Empire State Realty Trust have partnered for the first-ever social media driven light show, #WhosGonnaWin, powered exclusively by fan tweets. Each day, Verizon asks fans on Twitter to break down the game from the passing game to the defense and ultimately, who will win Super Bowl XLVIII. Here’s the really cool part — each night, the fans’ predictions result in a light show on the Empire State Building in the winning team’s colors.

Faulk was on hand at the Empire State Building to flip the switch for the initiative and light the show. We caught up with the Hall of Famer to talk about the big game, the big city, and some hot topics in football today, including player safety and marijuana use.

On staying focused during the week leading up to the Super Bowl:

“Experienced teams and experienced head coaches who have been through this before — what you do is when you notice that your team has a chance to go deep into the playoffs, you use the bye week during the regular season to prepare those guys for what that week off leading up to the Super Bowl might be like and if you have a couple of hiccups, you kind of present that to them and then you use the bye week if you’re one of the four teams that gets the bye week the first week of the playoffs you use that week as well to reiterate and reinforce the things that you’re going to. But probably the most important is just making your guys aware of as much as this is time off, you’re still on. You are still on and people want sound bites, they want information, they want news. Don’t make the bad news for this team. Don’t be that person to shine the bad light on this organization at this juncture.”

On whether New York makes a difference in the intensity of the Super Bowl spotlight:

"It’s funny I feel like here things that happen here would be a little more accepted because although you are the media capital of the world what you guys do here is you accept from your actors, from your entertainers when they goof up or they do things. It’s like, ‘Okay that’s just who they are.’ If we were in Indianapolis and you did something crazy there, that’s big news. But people doing things here in New York it happens all the time. We see that every day is that really news? Your editor would really have to look at it and ask, ‘Is it really newsworthy or not?’”

On new player safety rules in the NFL:

“I think player safety is a small component of it and taking care of the players that are playing the game now. The big component of it is for the future of our game. We want mothers to feel like your son is playing a game that he’s going to be ok at. Because people forget that baseball can hit you in the head, that baseball can hit you in the eye, hockey they’re wearing blades on their feet, lacrosse they’re swatting with sticks, it’s dangerous and in basketball things happen all the time on the court. You can hit a hardwood floor, you have no padding on your head.

A lot of people like to point to the physicality of football because it’s player hitting player. But it’s never the player hitting player it’s player hitting player, player hitting ground that causes a lot of the head trauma and a lot of the things that we see. I think the initiative is really at the grassroots level, the little league kids to really get them to see this is how the game should be played, teaching them at that level, the whole Heads Up program try and teach them how to play the game safely. That’s what this initiative really is about because we need for parents to send their kids to play football and feel okay with it.”

On marijuana use in the NFL and what’s next:

“When the whole ephedra thing jumped off — ephedra’s not illegal in our country but if you get caught with it in the NFL, and obviously you’ll get suspended. It gets treated like a steroid or an enhancer because of the size of the guys it’s hazardous to your health. It can cause heart issues and health issues that can’t be detected by doctors or physicals at the time of use. I think that if that’s going to be the case, there must be a how this is bad for you — you can’t just outlaw something if it becomes legal because you want to. You have to prove that it’s something that’s within the player safety realm and either makes the player not so good or puts a player’s health in harm’s way.

You can’t just say because you’re the commissioner of the NFL say, ‘You know what I don’t like marijuana, the government legalized it, you can’t play in the league if you do marijuana.’ You’re going to have issues with that. We like to be forward in things but I think that the commissioner, the NFL and the people who make the rules, they are really going to see where the government goes on it and the last time I checked and please anyone out there who reads this or hears this, correct me if I’m wrong, I’ve never heard of someone OD’ing on marijuana. I’ve just never heard that.”

On the Verizon #WhosGonnaWin initiative:

“Understanding where social media is in our advertising and marketing world and how it’s really starting to drive the market, Verizon came up with what I think is just a great idea of giving their fans and fans of the NFL an opportunity to do something unique — they get to light up the Empire State Building and it’s a great initiative when you think about the Super Bowl being here, the city being on board with it, and obviously what Verizon is doing by powering this event up, if you’re a Seahawks fan and you want to help your team or if you’re a Broncos fan and you want to help your team you can tweet and pretty much get your team colors up here. I think that’s pretty special. I know if I was playing in this game and I was riding around the city, to see my team colors up and to know that my fans were responsible, it’s just that little bit more oomph to bring the trophy home for your fans.”

Photo via Verizon

About Matt Yoder

Award winning sportswriter at The Comeback and Awful Announcing. The biggest cat in the whole wide world.