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Autograph demands are a sign of Faulk's times


© St. Petersburg Times, published January 25, 2001

Next to the 12th green, Marshall Faulk's golf cart is surrounded by at least 30 people.

There's a man who wants his football autographed. There are two young girls who want pictures signed. There is an elderly couple who want a miniature Rams helmet signed for their grandson. And so on and so on.

As quick and elusive as Faulk is, there is no way in heaven he could escape this mob. That is, if he were in the cart.

No, Faulk is on the green, finishing a short putt and preparing to push his way through another throng of autograph-seekers just to get to the throng that's waiting ever so impatiently at his cart.

He can't go to the restroom without fans pestering him. I know this because he tried.

Can you believe some people actually followed him to the Port-O-Let?

Ten minutes into an afternoon with the Rams' all-world running back will make you seriously question whether you really want to be an NFL superstar. Sure, they are loaded and always enjoy the best of everything, but they also have to deal with the madness that comes with it.

It is relentless Wednesday afternoon at the NFL Players Super Shootout golf tournament at MacDill Air Force Base in South Tampa. From the first hole (he started on No. 12 in this best-ball format) until he left the course, he was hounded by ogling, gushing fans who begged, nagged and sometimes demanded he sign whatever they shoved in his face.

When Faulk pulls up to the first tee at about noon, there is already a crowd waiting with trading cards, pictures, etc. One guy has a near-lifesize portrait of Faulk, which he wants signed.

"Mr. Faulk. Mr. Faulk. Over here Mr. Faulk. Please Mr. Faulk."

Faulk initially ignores the incessant requests, chatting casually on his mobile phone while pulling balls, gloves and clubs from his bag. Once he pushes past them onto the tee box, there is still no relief. As soon as he introduces himself to his playing partners, they hit him up for autographs, too.

"Mr. Faulk, Mr. Faulk. Please Mr. Faulk. Can you sign this, Mr. Faulk?"

Turning his back to the pleadings coming from all around him, Faulk promptly steps up to the tee and yanks his drive sharply to the left and into the water.

"If one more person says my name I'm going to scream," he says, only half serious.

Faulk then announces that he is only signing for children. When Faulk rebuffs a man who wants a glossy 8x10 autographed, the man finds a little boy and tries to get the boy to ask Faulk to sign the picture. The kid flatly refuses.

After just one hole, the constant badgering is starting to get to the typically unflappable Faulk, who is a skilled golfer. He meets their impatience with his own impatience. Out of earshot of the gallery, he uses a couple of words his mother probably wouldn't be too proud to hear him utter, but he maintains a civil front.

His second tee shot also finds the water, this time on a 200-yard par-3 with a green that's almost surrounded by water. He turns and glares at the fans behind him, but says nothing.

"I've lost two balls in two holes," he says back into the cart. "That's a messed-up ratio."

The round doesn't get much better for Faulk, who is playing with former Bucs defensive back Tony Covington and three non-NFL players. The highlight is a chip shot, about 25 yards, that Faulk leaves about 5 or 6 feet from the hole. He taps in for a birdie on No. 14.

That sweet chip, though, is not enough to keep Faulk going. After just six holes and more than two hours of nagging, he calls it a day. Faulk is whisked away in another golf cart to the clubhouse, where a black stretch limo waits to take him away.

So, what did he think of his afternoon of what was supposed to be a leisurely round?

"Impossible," he said.

Just before Faulk leaves, somebody leans over and asks Woody Norris, who played in the fivesome, if he would like to be Marshall Faulk for a day.

"No way. There's absolutely no way," he says, shaking his head and staring at Faulk. "You see these guys on TV and they make all that money, but you don't realize what they have to go through until you see it up close and personal."

Who was it that said golf is a good walk spoiled? It's true, except Wednesday it had nothing to do with the golf.

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