With a name like Chad Faulcon, it almost seemed destined that one of the best local athletes would be drafted to the Atlanta Falcons. But it's more than just his name that landed the Cranford native a spot on the field for the NFL team's training camp.
A lifelong resident of the township and a 2008 Cranford High School graduate, Faulcon signed with the Atlanta Falcons following the National Football League’s Draft on April 28.
"It was probably the most stressful day of my life," Faulcon said while signing autographs at Cougar Headquarters, a store on Centennial Avenue that sells Cranford-themed athletic apparel. "I probably got a call five minutes after the draft."
Being signed to an NFL team was the culmination of a stellar year for Faulcon, a student at Montclair State University who was named the New Jersey Athletic Conference and D3Football.com East Region Defensive Player of the Year. In addition, he was chosen for the D3Football.com All-America Team. He helped his team at MSU to back-to-back NJAC Championships and NCAA Division III Playoff appearances in 2009 and 2010.
Faulcon's success following the draft didn't come as a surprise to residents and school district officials who have known of the MSU safety's exemplary skills since his days as a Cranford Cougar.
"If somebody was gonna do it, I'm not surprised that it was Chad," Faulcon's high school football coach Erik Rosenmeier said as he watched his former player greet residents during Tuesday's autograph signing. Rosenmeier was one of the first people Faulcon called when he found out that he had been drafted by the Falcons.
Rosenmeier said Faulcon was always a standout on the gridiron. He was known for his speed and ability to prevent his opponents from scoring.
"In terms of football qualities, he was a kid that wasn't afraid to hit. He was a very physical player," Rosenmeier said of Faulcon, who wore number 34 as a Cougars starter. "He also loved his teammates and he played hard on every play."
The coach said Faulcon also possessed offensive skills, but will be remembered for the tackles that routinely kept the other team's ball out of the end zone. Rosenmeier recalls one standout game against Matawan during which Faulcon made tackles on six consecutive plays, including one tackle at the 5-yard line that prevented a touchdown.
As he signed autographs for everyone from local sports fans and former schoolmates to his fifth grade teacher at Orange Avenue School — to whom he still owes a book report — Faulcon never stoped smiling. Although he has a lot to smile about these days, Rosenmeier and Cranford Athletic Director Darren Torsone said the 22-year-old has always been upbeat.
"He's a very likable kid. He's always got a smile on his face. His mom did a great job," Rosenmeier said. "But when it's game time, it's a very different face. He's very competitive."
Torsone, who was Faulcon's physical education teacher, said the former CHS student "always led by example."
"Chad has a lot of endearing qualities," Torsone, the current athletic director, said. "He was a great leader for our athletic programs."
Faulcon leaves for Atlanta on Thursday, to begin training camp. When he touches down in Georgia, the temperature will be 76 degrees and sunny. Faulcon said one of the challenges of training in Atlanta will be adjusting to the warm weather. But he's up for the challenge.
"I'm really excited about it," said Faulcon, who finished take his last final exam right before his appearance at Cougar Headquarters.
Scott Marino, owner of Cougar Headquarters, said Faulcon's appearance was his store's way of giving a local athlete a proper send-off.
"It just came together," Marino said. "We wanted to help the town wish him well. For Cranford, this is as big as it gets."