Marshall Faulk has felt the pressure of Super Bowls and the "Madden Curse" (twice!), but nothing makes the man sweat like swinging a golf club in front of the legendary Arnold Palmer.
“He walked out on the range while I was swinging and it was so nerve-racking,” Faulk says with a laugh. “I swung a couple of times for him and he offered to sponsor me, but I told him, I play golf for fun. I enjoy playing. I don’t want to be a pro who doesn’t enjoy playing. I have enough friends who play golf professionally, and they go fishing for fun. I play golf for fun and I don’t want to change my hobby.”
Faulk, who is one of the best celebrity golfers you’ll find on any green, is teaming with Palmer to shoot a series of viral videos for EA Sports’ upcoming “Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14,” a game that features Palmer on the cover and Faulk as a playable character.
“I play the ‘Tiger’ games a lot,” Faulk says. “I can’t get over how realistic they are. If you’re about to play a course in real life, and you don’t have access to that course, if you play it on ‘Tiger,’ you feel like really know the course after playing the video game a couple of times. You remember holes and you remember certain things about certain courses. It’s fun.”
ESPN Playbook: You’re in Tiger’s game, but have you ever had the chance to play a real round of golf against Woods?
Marshall Faulk: Yeah, we’ve played several rounds of golf together. It’s refreshing to watch him. It actually helps put everything into perspective. There are days when you feel like you have everything together and you think you can do anything you want with the ball, then you watch him hit a few balls and it’s like, yeah, I’m only an amateur.
If you would have spent as much time practicing golf when you were a kid instead of football, do you think you would’ve been able to become a professional golfer?
No idea. That’s a good question, and I enjoy playing, but that’s all I know. I’m not sure how much time those guys put in, but for me, I know I really enjoy playing golf.
You’re not only in the EA Sports “Tiger” game this year, but they’ve actually featured you on the “Madden” cover twice and you’re still walking around. Is the Madden Curse overrated?
I don’t even know what that is. I know nothing about the Madden Curse. [laughs]
You not only beat it, you beat it twice.
I’m a lucky guy. And it’s funny, because people still come up to me all the time and want to talk about my “Madden” character. So after all these years, for them to reintroduce my character into the game, it was sweet. I grew up as a gamer, and my time growing up was when video games first stared getting big, and “Madden” was huge. So to have my picture on the cover, and then to be on the cover again and reappear in the game, that’s just a delight. Now my kids get enjoy having their father in the game, and that’s sweet.
Do you have any advice for EA Sports when they create your “Tiger” character? Are we going to see you in knickers or any fancy golf duds?
I’m all Nike gear, man. No knickers. [laughs]
What’s it like spending the day with Arnold Palmer and getting to pick his brain about your swing?
Listen, if you understand what this man has done for the game of golf and what he means to the game of golf, then you understand that there’s no comparison to anything I’ve ever done for football. And I’m not even talking about things that he’s done on the course, I’m talking about off the course and being an advocate for golf, and how he got it in a position to where it is. The state of the game today has a lot to do with Arnold Palmer and what he’s done for the game. Trust me, it’s a delight to get to spend the day with him.
So for people who are going to swing the virtual club as you in “Tiger 14,” do you have any advice? What are your strengths as a golfer?
I hit the ball pretty good off the tee and my short game is pretty creative. I’m a good putter. The one thing I feel like I don’t do as well as I should is hit my short irons closer, but I’m a pretty good long iron player. It’s just those short irons that give me problems.
Do you have a favorite course you like to play on?
I really don’t. I just enjoy playing, so I don’t care if it’s a muni or a country club, it’s more about the guys I’m with and getting together and enjoying the game.
So when “Tiger 14” comes out, are you going to play as yourself, or would you rather just play as Tiger or Arnold Palmer?
It’s so funny, when I played “Madden,” I would never play as the Rams, and in Tiger, I’d never play as myself. That’s boring. I get to be me all the time. [laughs] Most of the time, I play as Tiger. I’m enamored with his ability and what he’s able to do in the game of golf. I’m a fan. When his career took off, that’s what heightened the game of golf to the African-American community, and it got a lot of us into golf.