I have two departures to contemplate with you this morning, one whose playing career is over and the other who has headed for the great cartoonist’s easel in the sky.
Alan Faneca announced his retirement as an NFL player Tuesday. The big redhead had put in a decade as a perennial All-Pro guard with the Steelers before he came to the Jets in early March 2008.
“I’ve got 10 years of experience under my belt,” Faneca told reporters about trading in the black and gold for the green and white. “I can help these guys. I can help the entire unit in subtle ways. I can help put that experience to use.”
He proceeded to do just that in his two seasons as the Jets’ left guard, blocking for Thomas Jones and protecting first “the old man,” Brett Favre, then “the kid,” Mark Sanchez. The Jets’ rushing offense rose from 19th in 2007 to ninth and then to first in ’09, the first year of Rex Ryan’s “Ground and Pound” approach, while the O-line enjoyed a rare two years of stability and grew into arguably the top unit in the league.
Faneca departed for the Cardinals last year and extended his streaks to 144 consecutive regular-season games played and started, both of which led active guards in the NFL. Now he’ll turn those distinctions over to others. (Coincidentally, Jets RG Brandon Moore becomes the active leader for consecutive guard starts at 105 and trails only Tennessee’s Jake Scott with 105 straight games played.)
A class act, Faneca expressed his gratitude to everyone in his retirement statement released yesterday, including the teams he played for.
“From the dog days of training camp to winning a Super Bowl, the memories are endless,” he said. “The greatest memory that I will leave the game with is all of the lifelong friendships I have made.
“I want to specifically thank the Steelers, Jets and Cardinals. Each and every teammate, coach and front office employee has made a lasting impact on my life. It was a pleasure playing for first-class organizations who surrounded me with incredibly dedicated individuals.”
The other departure was the death of Bill Gallo, 88, the New York Daily News’ beloved cartoonist for the last (is this even possible?) seven decades. Gallo caricatured and illustrated them all, New Yorkers and national figures, from baseball — Joe DiMaggio, Leo Durocher, Tom Seaver, Derek Jeter — to boxers — Rocky Marciano, Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali — and every sport and star in between.
Football held a firm place in Gallo’s heart. He, like many of Joe Namath’s teammates, always felt that “Broadway Joe” was more a media creation than an accurate portrayal, and his 1973 sketch of Namath for the News captures that feeling.
Even before Joe, in the toddling days of the American Football League, Gallo had a special connection to the New York Titans, illustrating their gameday program covers in the early Sixties. In fact, we at the Jets asked him to reprise those covers, which he did for our 2007 Jets-Eagles gameday program. Click here to see that cover and read Eric Allen’s feature on Bill Gallo at that time.
One of Gallo’s illustrations that brought a tear to my eye this morning was his “Tears in the Balcony” panel, which remembered all the old Yankees who played in the House That Ruth Built and had passed on. His trademark caption in small italic capitals read “To all those who once felt the grass in the ol’ yard.” Whether it was grass, plastic, wood, ice or canvas, Gallo captured the images of those who frolicked on those surfaces better and longer than anyone else in NYC.
Tags: Alan Faneca, Arizona Cardinals, Bill Gallo, Brandon Moore, New York Titans
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