Now those days are far gone, the ones I dream now and then.
Those words are likely unfamiliar, the lyrics to the Carencro High alma mater that, in the fall of 2013, a man named Kevin Faulk had his football players sing.
That first line helps explain why the legendary running back would return home to Louisiana after two decades of stardom, a man who could have done anything he wanted.
The second line explains it, too.
The faces I once thought forgotten have filled these empty halls again.
Faulk started a new tradition in his first year as Carencro's offensive coordinator: After every game, the players ran over to the Golden Bruin Band and sang that song.
Carencro didn't have an alma mater when Faulk and the Bears won the school's first state championship in 1992. It was written in the time in between, while Faulk became LSU's all-time leading rusher and a three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots.
So when Faulk returned home, he stole the tradition he learned at LSU, and his players sang those lines after every game — especially the last one.
I'm home at Carencro.
Faulk wanted to live in Louisiana. He wanted to coach in Louisiana. He wanted raise his three children in Louisiana.
And once Faulk's children began to graduate high school, he became an LSU support staffer for a Larose native who values homegrown employees perhaps more than any collegiate head coach.
It was a career move that eventually had LSU coach Ed Orgeron hiring Faulk to a two-year, $350,000-per-year contract as his new running backs coach last week, a result that seemed almost inevitable from the time Faulk returned to Baton Rouge.
Orgeron said in a statement that he was "honored" to hire Faulk. He called it "a home run hire."
Why is Faulk back at LSU? This man who could have done anything he wanted?
"Because he's still home," said Derrick Beavers, a former running back and Faulk's teammate at Carencro and LSU. "He's still home."
A generational legend
You know who Kevin Faulk is.
His personal story has transcended generations.
If you're a member of Generation X, you knew him as Louisiana's top recruit, the crucial prospect who nearly chose Florida over Notre Dame, the player then-LSU coach Gerry DiNardo visited in Carencro immediately after his introductory news conference in Baton Rouge.
You'll remember how DiNardo suspended Faulk ahead of the 1996 season, after Faulk was arrested for simple battery on a Carencro police officer after getting into a fight over his girlfriend at a night club.
You'll remember how DiNardo reinstated Faulk after he apologized to police, and how Faulk rushed for 246 yards and two touchdowns in the season opener against Houston, when he also returned a punt 78 yards for a touchdown.
Faulk's 376 all-purpose yards in LSU's 35-34 win that night in Tiger Stadium are still a school record, the beginning of an All-America season and a window into the Southeastern Conference career all-purpose-yards record Faulk still holds today (6,833).
"There's just a million memories," DiNardo says now.
Millenials knew him as the versatile and sometimes overlooked NFL tailback who took handoffs and caught passes from Tom Brady, a 13-year veteran who never rushed for more than 100 yards in a game or 1,000 in a season, but steadily and consistently earned the respect of perhaps the most notorious curmudgeon to coach in the NFL.
Bill Belichick called Faulk "one of the most unselfish players I've ever coached" on the day Faulk entered the Patriots Hall of Fame in 2016. He played in five Super Bowls, won three and still hold's the franchise record for all-purpose yards (12,349) and kickoff return yards (4,098).
Millenials remember a professional who mostly stayed out of trouble, a nearly clean career that included a one-game suspension in 2008 for misdemeanor possession of marijuana at a Li'l Wayne concert at the Cajundome.
It's a discipline Faulk is expected to bring as an LSU assistant, a wise coach who'll hold his players to The Patriot Way.
"You've got to put the team first," said former LSU running back Stevan Ridley, who was Faulk's teammate in New England in 2011. "You've got to be accountable, and you've got to do your job. That is The Patriot Way."
And Generation Z?
You all nearly missed out.
Faulk spent your transformative years at Carencro High, converting an archaic Wing-T offense into a pro-style attack. Faulk's alma mater only had one winning season in the five years before his arrival in 2013 — a Class 5A state finalist run in 2011 — and he commanded an offense that produced playoff berths in four of the next five years.
"He used some of the same terminology (as in New England)," said Roland Eveland, the former Carencro head coach who coached Faulk as an offensive coordinator in the early ’90s. "You'd hear Tom Brady check to a play you know. 'Holy cow! They're running off tackle!’ ”
Faulk resurfaced nationally when he joined Orgeron's staff in January 2018 as director of player development.
It was a quiet role. An unsung role.
Only did Faulk make headlines when, after LSU's seven-overtime loss at Texas A&M in 2018, he exchanged postgame punches with Aggie coach Jimbo Fisher's nephew, Cole, when Faulk saw the support staffer shove LSU analyst Steve Kragthorpe, who suffered from Parkinson's and had a pacemaker in his chest.
Faulk spent most of his time behind the scenes in Baton Rouge, advising Tigers running backs as much as he could in his non-coaching role.
Now, he's free to give all he can.
"I couldn't be more excited for him," former LSU running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire said at the NFL scouting combine Wednesday. "I think this is one — out of all the things that he's done, I think this is something that he really wanted to do."
And, according to those who know him best, it always has been.
'It all worked out'
Gerry DiNardo still remembers his introductory news conference.
Before it officially began Dec. 12, 1994, before DiNardo famously said it was his staff's responsibility "to bring the magic back to Tiger Stadium," LSU's newest head coach gave reporters an intentional tip:
I'll answer some questions, he told them. But I really have a very important recruiting issue that I have to attend to, so I'll be leaving right after the press conference.
"I said that so all the TV stations would follow me," said DiNardo, now an analyst for the Big Ten Network. "And that's pretty much what happened. So everybody knew I was going there."
Carenco, of course.
DiNardo made the hour-long drive in a blue Chevrolet Lumina with longtime football operations staffer Sam Nader at the wheel, briefing the New York native all the way through Cajun country.
The Carencro football department was undergoing renovations at the time. When DiNardo met up with then-Bears head coach Mac Barousse, there wasn't any furniture in the building.
So, DiNardo sat on the floor.
After a few minutes, Kevin Faulk sat right down next to him.
That first meeting was as humble as Faulk's 5-foot-10 frame. Yes, this undersized player was considered the top recruit in the state, perhaps the nation.
Carencro had never won a playoff game before Faulk quarterbacked the Bears to the Class 4A state championship as a sophomore in 1992. He was essentially a running back under center, an option quarterback in the Multiple I formation during a time when high school coaches made sure their best ball carriers touched the football every play.
Faulk was so elusive in the backfield that, when Barbe High stopped the option on a rainy night in LaGrange Stadium in the 1993 regular-season finale, Barousse stuck Faulk in the shotgun, spread three receivers to one side and let Faulk run wherever he wanted to go.
Carencro won 16-7, and Faulk rushed for a season-high 37 carries and 163 yards.
"He did stuff every week that people hadn't seen people do before," said Barousse, who retired from coaching in 2008.
And after the Bears scored touchdowns, Faulk bent down, breathing heavily, and held the extra points because the coaches wanted a threat to run fake field goals.
Carencro didn't have a bad placekicker. The Bears had Wade Richey, who went on to a five-year career in the NFL.
How many fakes did Faulk run?
"A lot," said Richey, Faulk's teammate at LSU. "Probably as many you've ever seen in high school football."
Richey was a year ahead of Faulk, and he said that once DiNardo was hired in Baton Rouge, "it was instantly known" that the new coach was zeroing in on Faulk.
The narrative, DiNardo remembers, was that if he signed Faulk, his entire recruiting class would be impacted. His signing could change the outcome of the program DiNardo was building.
When DiNardo learned Faulk was traveling to Florida and Notre Dame on recruiting trips in the weeks before national signing day, he hoped for flat tires and snow.
But there was little doubt which school Faulk was choosing. He walked into Pete's Bar and Grill in Lafayette wearing a purple and gold LSU windbreaker.
DiNardo still remembers the newspaper picture that showed him raising his arms watching Faulk's commitment on TV.
"It all worked out," DiNardo said.
Truth was, Faulk never wanted to leave Louisiana.
His oldest daughter, Tanasha, was born five days before he announced his commitment.
DiNardo had held Tanasha during a recruiting visit.
Faulk always wanted to stay in his home state, a statement he made regularly while he was playing at LSU.
"I remember him saying that he wanted to go back and be the head coach at Carencro," DiNardo said.
He laughed. Paused.
"And he was the head coach at Carencro," he said. "Wasn't he?"
'I wanted to come back'
Stevan Ridley showed up with confidence to training camp with the New England Patriots in the summer of 2011.
He wanted to prove he belonged. He was ready for the pros. He was from LSU, after all.
On the first day of practice, Ridley hopped to the front of the line during drills to take a handoff from Tom Brady.
Just before the snap, Brady looked back.
"He kind of looked at me and said, 'Nah, nah, nah, nah, get out of the way,’ ” Ridley said. "He pushed me out the way. He was like, 'Faulk, get in here! Take this handoff!’ ”
Of course, Ridley knew who Faulk was.
But to see the respect from Brady? The player Ridley considers "the Michael Jordan of football"?
"It just kind of opened my eyes to what it was," Ridley said.
In Faulk's final NFL season, he took Ridley under his wing, taught him the playbook, showed him how to move, to pass block, to play the game the way Belichick wanted it to be played.
Faulk was the longest-tenured player on a franchise that had more roster turnover during his tenure than almost every other team.
"So what does that say about the guy?" Ridley said. "He knows football in and out. He's learned from the best. He's played with the best. ... He's going to be a tremendous coach."
Faulk retired from the NFL on Oct. 9, 2012.
Barousse said Faulk could have worked for Patriots owner Robert Kraft on a personal contract for the rest of his life if he wanted.
Richey said there was word that Faulk had a standing offer in New England to be a part of the coaching staff if he wanted.
But when the Carencro head coaching job opened up later that fall, Faulk called Barousse.
"Coach," Faulk said. "I always told you I wanted to come back."
No, Faulk never was the head coach at Carencro.
He did apply for the job.
He was awarded the job.
But because he didn't have the certification as a full-time teacher to be a head coach in Louisiana, the school had to re-open its search.
Eveland, Carencro's offensive line coach at the time, got the job instead in 2013, and he hired Faulk as a non-faculty coach, a position that allowed Faulk to essentially serve as offensive coordinator while he substituted classes while working toward becoming a full-time teacher.
Soon enough, a Bears offense that had been committed to ground-and-pound option football for decades was running the Patriots offense.
Faulk installed four-wide formations, two-back sets, spread offense plays the Bears had never run, like the zone and stretch and counter.
Even the Carencro coaching staff was held to the standard of The Patriot Way.
"He was used to Belichick," said Eveland, who retired from coaching after the 2016 season. "He was expecting us to have a meeting every day after practice. I was old-school: If s*** didn't go wrong in practice, we just went home!"
It took a few years for Faulk's post-practice coaching meetings to happen regularly.
In 2014, Carenco went 8-3 and returned to the first round of the playoffs.
In 2016, the Bears went 11-3, scored 36.2 points per game and lost to Neville High in the Class 4A quarterfinals.
Faulk stayed on staff until after the 2017 season, one of just two years the Bears didn't make the playoffs during his tenure.
Meanwhile, Faulk's family grew up in his hometown.
He coached his son, Kevin III.
Was it as fulfilling as he'd hoped?
"One time I asked him about it," Eveland said, "and he told it to me like this: 'Coach, Carencro is good to me. I wanted to make sure I gave something back.’ ”
'A legend wherever he's at'
Where stately oaks and broad magnolias shade inspiring halls ...
Faulk will be singing another alma mater soon, the one he once belted in Baton Rouge.
Fond memories that waken in our hearts a tender glow ...
Perhaps no one else can connect as easily with the Louisiana running backs on LSU's roster, like Southern Lab's Tyrion Davis-Price and Destrehan's John Emery.
And even nationally, most who know Faulk feel recruiting will be as simple for him as the number of Super Bowl rings Faulk can wear on the trip: Easy as one, two, three.
And may thy spirit live in us ...
Is this as perfect as possible?
"He's Louisiana, right?" DiNardo said. "I mean, he's part of the fabric of the state."
"I mean, come on," Barousse said. "What can you say?"
Faulk said in his official hiring statement that "to coach at my alma mater is the best thing I could ever hope for."
"As we already know, Kevin Faulk is a legend wherever he's at as long as he's on the grass with his occupation," Ridley said. "He's been in the shoes of the guys that he's going to be coaching and leading and grooming up to transform boys to men and find their journey and push their careers. I think it's a beautiful thing."