By Bob Socci, 98.5 The Sports Hub

BOSTON (CBS) — There were no notes in either hand when Bill Belichick rose from a table inside The Hall at Patriot Place and strode to a podium on an early October morning in 2012. His sleeves rolled up around his forearms, Belichick adjusted the microphone and, while ostensibly talking from the top of his head, seemingly spoke from the heart.

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Really, it was the only appropriate way to do it on this occasion, arranged to formally announce the retirement of longtime running back Kevin Faulk. Hired as New England’s head coach in 2000, Belichick inherited Faulk, who was drafted a year earlier, and eventually adopted him as a personal favorite.

“He always knew what to do,” said Belichick, who couldn’t recall a single instance when Faulk failed to come through when called upon in the coach’s classroom.

“I can’t remember asking a question in a team meeting that (Kevin) didn’t have the right answer to, and I used to try to give him a couple hard ones. He usually aced those.”

With that, Belichick relaxed his expression with a slight smile. Moments later — in a tribute lasting more than six minutes in all — Belichick told of Faulk when times were tense.

“The bigger the situation, the more critical the play, the better he played and the more you could count on him,” Belichick said of the player he coached in 169 games (Faulk’s first 11 were under Pete Carroll).

Nineteen of them were in the playoffs. Three of those were Super Bowl victories. And all featured Faulk in number 33.

It’s what he wore when converting pivotal third downs throughout his 13 NFL seasons, while compiling a franchise-record 12,349 all-purpose yards. Thirty-three is also Faulk’s total of regular-season touchdowns — 16 rushing, 15 receiving and two by way of returns.

Yet Faulk was wearing a different number just a few weeks ago, when he scored points with Patriots fans that undoubtedly helped him win election to the team’s Hall of Fame.

On Wednesday, he was announced as the Hall’s 25th entrant, after earning more votes than fellow finalists Raymond Clayborn and Mike Vrabel. Faulk will be inducted on Aug. 1, before being honored again at halftime of New England’s home opener vs. Miami on Sept. 18.

When last we saw him, Faulk was at the NFL Draft in Chicago on the final Friday of April. He was there to join Richard Seymour as ex-Patriots on hand to announce the team’s second- and third-round selections. When it was Faulk’s turn to deliver New England’s second choice of the night, he emerged in a Tom Brady replica jersey, walking alongside NFL vice president of football operations Troy Vincent.

Slipping into No. 12 and donning it under his blue suit coat was, itself, resounding enough. But Faulk didn’t stop there in support of Brady, his longtime teammate who yet again faces the four-game DeflateGate suspension imposed by Vincent and upheld by commissioner Roger Goodell.

“With the 78th pick of the 2016 NFL draft,” Faulk boldly declared, “the New England Patriots and Tom Brady select Joe Thuney, (offensive lineman), North Carolina State.”

Faulk’s gesture was heard loud and clear. Like Belichick said, he always knew what to do.

As a player, Faulk’s own name was announced as the 46th overall selection in the 1999 NFL Draft. He left Louisiana State University as its career rushing leader and after debuting under Carroll, started nine games for Belichick in 2000.

Faulk had 164 rushing attempts (topped by only his 178 carries in 2003) and 51 receptions (surpassed only by his 58 catches in 2008). But he also fumbled six times.

His occasional breach of ball security was something Faulk would ultimately overcome. He’d also learn to adapt to a new order in the Patriots backfield.

In June 2001, the Pats signed free agent Antowain Smith, who at 6-feet-2 and 232 pounds was much larger than the 5-8, 202-pound Faulk. Smith ended up with the bulk of the ball-carrying load and became a 1,000-yard rusher.

On the field for fewer offensive snaps, according fewer touches, Faulk found ways to actually expand what appeared to be a reduced role. He read defenses with a discerning eye, ran routes with precision and picked up blitzing defenders with aplomb.

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Thanks to Faulk, what was viewed elsewhere as a limited position — that of the so-called third-down back — became limitless in the Patriots offense. He modeled the role for successors like Shane Vereen and Dion Lewis.

“Whenever they brought Antowain Smith in, it’s one of those [situations] like, ‘Wow, I’m going to be put to the back burner. I’m going to be the third-down guy,’” Faulk recounted Wednesday afternoon on a media conference call. “‘I’m not going to be able to get as many reps or snaps that the starter would get.’”

At the time, Faulk recalled, he “was very depressed.” His outlook changed by looking at his situation with “longevity” in mind.

“(I was) able to last 13 years in the NFL as a running back in that type of offense, doing some of the same things that a starter would do,” he said. “(I’m) very prideful to understand and know what that role is for this Patriots’ football team, and it’s bigger than most people think.”

The same can be said of Faulk’s career legacy.

On the field, he caught 431 passes to become one of 30 running backs in NFL history with 400 career receptions. Only five others, like Faulk, eclipsed both 3,000 yards rushing and 3,000 yards receiving in the 2000s. He was also a specialist on the franchise’s 50th Anniversary team, as the Patriots’ all-time leader in combined return yards.

And then there’s that knack for answering when called upon; the bigger the situation, the more critical the play. Of Faulk’s 33 touchdowns, 14 either tied the game or put the Pats in the lead.

“Just being ready, being patient, understanding that the game wasn’t just about you,” Faulk said of his internal makeup. “You can’t play the game angry sometimes because you’re not getting the balls or the touches that you may need or you may feel like you should get. Because if you do that then you’re not going to be ready when that critical situation comes up, when that opportunity that your team really needs you (arises).

“You’re not going to be able to make that play. You’re not going to be focused for that play, because you’re too worried about, ‘Why didn’t I get the ball on this play? Why didn’t I get the ball on that play?’”

His unselfishness, along with humility, allowed Faulk’s legacy to extend into the locker and press rooms, and reach out to touch organizations and individuals around the region. To those who covered the team in his time, Faulk was an accountable spokesman, as well as a community servant.

“Being the same person I was when I got there, to the same person that I was when I left,” Faulk replied when I asked what defined him as a Patriot. “Yes, I did grow as an individual but who I was as a person never changed.

“I just credit that to my parents growing up, the kind of culture that I grew up in, just being that humble person that understands, it’s… not about just me.”

Only now, as the one-man Hall-of-Fame Class of 2016, it’s all about him.

A finalist in his first year of eligibility, Faulk was appointed to the ballot by a nominating committee. He made it over pre-dynasty Patriots like past finalists Leon Gray, Chuck Fairbanks and Bill Parcells; and ahead of title-sharing teammates such as Matt Light and Rodney Harrison.

My own votes (three) as a first-time participant in the process were cast elsewhere. Yes, I believe Faulk deserves a place in The Hall. I simply thought others should get there first.

In the end, the combination of the player’s quantifiable characteristics and personal qualities — as an all-around contributor and well-rounded leader — made him the people’s choice.

Whether taking on a pass rusher from the blindside or taking advantage of an open mic on a national stage, Faulk made sure to have his teammate’s back.

Likely the next time see and hear from him will be in early August. Faulk will return to The Hall at Patriot Place, and his ensemble will include the red blazer of a Patriots Hall of Famer.

Whatever else he decides to wear and whatever words he chooses to speak, we can all trust that he’ll ace those too.

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Bob Socci is the radio play-by-play voice of the New England Patriots. You can follow him on Twitter @BobSocci.