FOOTBALL: Offensive coordinator thrives through his local roots

Eddie Faulkner, a Muncie Central grad, played at the University of Wisconsin before landing at BSU

Growing up in Muncie, Eddie Faulkner has plenty of memories of Ball State University football.

The Muncie Central High School graduate remembers future NFL players like Blaine Bishop, Michael Blair and Cory Gilliard in Cardinal and White. He remembers the coaches of his childhood too, Paul Schudel and Bill Lynch.

Faulkner remembers the games, like the time Gilliard ran around "knocking the block off them on punt team" against Eastern Michigan University. Or his recruiting visit to Ball State, when it played Bowling Green State University in 1996, and his first game as a graduate assistant against Indiana State University in 2003.

But mostly Faulkner remembers what it used to be like in Scheumann Stadium.

"A lot's changed since then," Faulkner said. "A new press box, new field, new mentality. It's come a long way. I've seen every little brick, since coach [Brady] Hoke came in, get built on that foundation."

Faulkner, now the offensive coordinator and running backs coach, has been a big part of that. Since returning to Muncie to earn his master's degree and join Hoke's coaching staff, Faulkner has helped his hometown school into the national spotlight.

MUNSONIAN BORN AND RAISED

Faulkner has spent most of his life in Muncie. He went to Sutton Elementary School on the city's southeast side and then Northside Middle School before moving on to Muncie Central. As a Bearcat, Faulkner was an All-State running back in 1996, his senior year.

He was recruited by Ball State, but chose to follow his dream of playing in the Big Ten and accepted a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin.

Despite picking the Badgers, Faulkner said he has always felt a connection to the Cardinals.

"I've always had a lot of pride in Ball State," he said. "Even as a younger adolescent growing up in the city, I wanted to see them do well. I feel just as close to this school and its development as other places I've been."

ONTO WISCONSIN

At Wisconsin, Faulkner found himself rooming with fellow running back Ron Dayne. Dayne would eventually win the Heisman Trophy in 1999 with Faulkner as his backup. Faulkner's role would earn him a mention in Dayne's acceptance speech, but as freshmen there were more important things to worry about.

"In camp the older guys would always [prank] the freshmen," Dayne said. "We sat in our room one night and said ‘We've got to get them before they get us.' He came up with a game plan so they couldn't get in our room."

Faulkner's plan soon spread to the other freshmen and pretty soon the seniors were so frustrated they had to go to coach Barry Alvarez for help. Alvarez kept the freshmen at practice extra long so the seniors had time to sneak into their rooms, but Dayne and Faulkner got them back anyway.

"We went down to their floor with buckets of water," he said. "The first door that was unlocked, we just threw four or five buckets on him."

Ball State offensive line coach Jason Eck was also a teammate of Faulkner's at Wisconsin. Eck remembers a fun-loving kid who once climbed into the hot tub wearing only his helmet.

"He was a character off the field," Eck said. "He always had a gag going, but he knew when business was business."

Faulkner graduated from Wisconsin in 2001 with two Rose Bowl rings and 1,038 career rushing yards. He said he doesn't regret picking the Badgers.

"Football is just like one quarter of my life," Faulkner said. "Football was great sometimes, but I wasn't playing as much as I wanted to. Would I do it again? Absolutely, a million times over."

STAYING IN THE GAME

After a year of playing for the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League and the Pittsburgh Steelers, Faulkner coached at Anderson University for a season.

By 2003, he was back home as a graduate assistant at Ball State. In 2005 he was promoted to running backs coach, a position he has since held. After Hoke left for San Diego State University and Stan Parrish took over the head coaching job in December, Faulkner was promoted to offensive coordinator. He was excited for the chance to learn from Parrish.

"He's forgot more football than I know," Faulkner said. "If you think you're done learning in this business, then you're really in trouble. He's a great guy to be under."

Originally this season Faulkner spent the game in the coaches' box, instead of on the sideline, where he was as running backs coach. But Parrish returned Faulkner to the sideline partway into the season because of his strong relationship with the players.

"Eddie has a presence about him," Parrish said. "[Players] know him; he has a grasp on what we're doing, and this group needs that. The mind is more important than the X's and O's. Eddie is a leader."

Faulkner's return to Muncie has allowed him to be closer to his family, alma mater and familiar coaches.

Eck isn't the only coach Faulkner had a previous relationship with. Tight ends coach Kurt Mattix was a graduate assistant at the same time as Faulkner, and wide receivers coach Joey Lynch played at Ball State during that time. But being able to coach with a former teammate is something special.

"Back in camp I said to him ‘How blessed are we to do something we love and do it with friends?'" Faulkner said. "I feel blessed. I feel like the luckiest person in the world to do something I love in my hometown with people that I know well."

A POSITIVE ROLE MODEL

Muncie is happy to have Faulkner back as well. Family friend and Muncie Central athletic director Tom Jarvis said Faulkner has spoken to the Bearcats' football team several times about life values and often attends home basketball games.

"I can't speak highly enough of the whole Faulkner family," Jarvis said. "If there were more people like that in Muncie, it would be a great community."

Faulkner has had some high profile success at Ball State. He recruited MiQuale Lewis, who has the third most rushing yards in Cardinals' history. Faulkner also brought freshman Eric Williams to Ball State, and Oct. 24 at Eastern Michigan, Lewis and Cory Sykes set an NCAA record for most rushing yards in a game by a pair of teammates.

Faulkner considers Lewis to be the best back he's coached, but there is company.

"There have been some good ones," Faulkner said. "I'm fortunate to have some depth over there. Up to this point, statistically it's hard to argue with Quale. But that changes year-to-year to be completely honest."

Lewis said Faulkner has been more than a coach to him.

"We have a close relationship," Lewis said. "It's more than a coaching aspect with him. He's a good friend of mine, a mentor, he shows great leadership. He's a good guy."

Both Williams and Lewis credited Faulkner with their continued development as premier backs.

"I was a downhill runner, but I wasn't really a downhill runner," Williams said. "I would bounce and dance and stuff. He taught me how to use my body more."

Faulkner may have coached Lewis too well, because after watching his Rose Bowl performances, the pupil has some strong opinions on his coach's talents.

"We catch a couple of him in the locker room on ESPN Classic," Lewis said. "My running style is 10 times better than his."

MOVING ON UP?

Faulkner's quick movement up the coaching ladder has led to thoughts of head coaching in the future.

"I'd like to get as high as I can go," he said. "I'd love to be head coach, I think that would be a great dream to come true, but that's not the task at hand. You've got to worry about the precious present."

That hasn't stopped Dayne from thinking about his friend's coaching prospects. After Hoke left last year, Dayne said he thought Faulkner might have gotten a shot at the head job.

"I was hoping for him," Dayne said. "I'm glad he got O.C. He's a great leader, down to earth."

The Heisman winner has an idea that might help sweeten the pot for his former backup's future as a head coach.

"If he gets to be a head coach," Dayne said. "Maybe I'll come down and be his running backs coach."


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