Alan Faneca proved his toughness on the gridiron every week while he was in the NFL. What fans didn’t get to see, however, was how hard Faneca worked off the field to overcome one of the biggest obstacles of his life.
When he was 15 years old, Faneca began having seizures. They were eventually diagnosed as epilepsy. Even though it was a career-threatening diagnosis, the Louisiana native managed to keep his head up and earn his way onto LSU’s roster in 1994.
Following a very successful stint at LSU, Faneca was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft. He went on to earn All-Pro honors nine times and was part of the team that won Super Bowl XL.
Earlier this year, Faneca was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His enshrinement ceremony will take place this weekend in Canton, Ohio.
While the focus will be on his enshrinement ceremony later this week, Faneca wants to use his time right now to bring awareness to the STEPS Toward Zero Campaign. This movement’s goal is to inspire the epilepsy community and find the optimal treatments for them.
We caught up with Alan Faneca this week to discuss his battle with epilepsy, his favorite moments as a member of the Steelers and much more.
The Spun: You are working on a campaign (with SK life science) called STEPS Toward Zero to help educate people with epilepsy. Can you tell us about it?
Alan Faneca: A lot of people don’t know that I actually have epilepsy and I’ve had it since I was 15 years old, so it’s near and dear to me. My daughter has a rare case of epilepsy as well. When they approached me about it, the idea and concept behind it to engage the community in a way to better themselves. Not everyone is going to get to zero, but there are paths to a better way of treating what they have. That’s what got me excited.
The Spun: Do you have any advice for someone in a similar situation as yours?
AF: The thing that’s best is to never accept life the way it is. Things can get better. It’s not always easy, but you can always fight your way to a better place in life. I saw a quote that says “Everything you want is on the other side of hard.” I love that quote, man. I’ve been using that quote a lot recently and I think it goes right along with this campaign. People can find out more if they go to STEPSTowardZero.com, and they’ll be able to learn a lot about their goal.
Zero seizures is the optimal treatment goal for many people with epilepsy. What does zero seizures mean to you? Share your story using #STEPSTowardZero and @SKlifescience will make a donation to the @Epilepsyfdn. Visit https://t.co/atPAHi0RKj for more info. #sponsored pic.twitter.com/ltSKOrBntM
— Alan Faneca (@afan66) August 3, 2021
The Spun: I know it may seem like a loaded question, but how did you manage to overcome your epilepsy diagnosis and go on to have such a successful career in the NFL?
AF: A lot of times I just put my head down and kept fighting. That’s a philosophy that helped me with my epilepsy battle as well as taking me to where I am today, the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
The Spun: What was that moment like when you learned you’re going to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
AF: At first, it got me. I was excited and ready to go. I’m just so pumped to go and enjoy the moment. I was at a loss for words when they knocked on my door.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) July 28, 2021
The Spun: You had plenty of great moments in Pittsburgh. What are some of your favorite memories with the Steelers?
AF: One is winning the Super Bowl, for sure. The other one is a personal moment for me. When we were coming out of the tunnel for my first playoff game at Heinz Field, the place was just bouncing. The hair on my neck was flying and I just paused and thought “This is what I’m here for.” It was a little moment, but it was really special.
The Spun: Are you a little surprised Bill Cowher never took another coaching job?
AF: I thought for sure early on that he would go back to coaching, but the more he did broadcasting, the more he felt like it was the right place for him.
— Steelers Depot (@Steelersdepot) August 2, 2021
The Spun: Who was the toughest guy you went up against?
AF: Because we had so many battles, Haloti Ngata deserves a lot of credit. He was a beast and you just knew you had a long day ahead of you when facing him. The hardest guy would have to be Warren Sapp. He played the position different from everyone else. Offensive line play is all about repetition and doing what you do to the best of your ability. When you played Warren, you had to approach the game differently and throw everything you knew out of the book. He definitely made you work and think differently than you do every week of the season.
The Spun: There’s been a lot of criticism surrounding Ben Roethlisberger and how much gas he has left in the tank. What are your thoughts on his outlook for the 2021 season?
AF: I think the easy take is to say that he’s washed up. The Ben I know is going to work hard and lead that team. A lot of their problems from last season will be fixed. I think they have a bit more in the tank this year and there are some bright possibilities for the Steelers.
Tough Decisions are Made by Tough People: Running in the Trenches with @afan66
— LSU Football (@LSUfootball) July 24, 2021
The Spun: Who has the better home-field advantage: LSU or Pittsburgh?
AF: The college environment is just crazy. I’ve always told people if there’s anything near the college level it’s in Pittsburgh. Our fan base travels so well. I mean, they’ve made a home team have to do a silent count in their own stadium.
The Spun: Who would be on your Mount Rushmore of Steelers?
AF: Well, you definitely have Franco Harris and “Mean” Joe Green right at the top. I think Terry Bradshaw definitely needs to be there. The problem is I’m not sure who should be the pick for the fourth spot. I think that’s where things get tricky and people get angry [laughing].
You can read more of our interviews with athletes or media stars here.