Alan Faneca didn’t let epilepsy derail his dream, earning induction into Hall of Fame


Alan Faneca had his first seizure as a 15 year old on Christmas Eve 1991, leading to a diagnosis of epilepsy. It didn’t deter him from playing 13 NFL seasons, earning nine Pro Bowls and six All-Pro honors and finally, after six times as a Hall of Fame finalist, earning a bust in Canton.

The former offensive guard was among five Steelers inducted this weekend, with Donnie Shell, Troy Polamalu and Bill Cowher going in with the Centennial Class of 2020 on Saturday. The late scout Bill Nunn Jr. earned induction with Faneca on Sunday night.

Faneca spoke of the obstacles he overcame to arrive in Canton and encouraged others to follow their dreams.

“Fifteen was a transformative year for me,” Faneca said. “My dream of playing in the NFL was awakened, and that was when I was diagnosed with epilepsy. I vividly knew that I was not going to let anything prevent me from fulfilling this dream. I knew as long as I listened to my doctors and followed their guidance, along with a strong support system, I would be fine. I always told myself, and have spoken about the fact that epilepsy is part of me, but it does not define me. We are in charge of our destiny. I never want any challenges to define us. We must define ourselves. Whatever one’s challenge in life, whether we have a disability or not, my message is always to maintain an integral commitment to not let anything stop us from fulfilling our vision. We all get knocked down in life, but it’s how we get up that matters.”

3 responses to “Alan Faneca didn’t let epilepsy derail his dream, earning induction into Hall of Fame

  1. That’s impressive. Had my first grand mal at 16. It took a long time for my tongue to heal from chewing it up so people could understand me. Both shoulders dislocated during seizures but my left will pop out in my sleep on rare occasion (rare now thanks to PT). I started with Depakote but felt drained, gained weight, struggled to stay in football. I switched to Dilantin but was allergic and sustained liver damage. I hoped to grow out of it, went off the meds after 6 years grand mal free, but they came back a few months later and EEGs showed traces of petite mals from I guess stupid things like cosmic bowling or when bars would convert to dance DJ situations. You have no idea when you’re blacking out and feel embarrassed when you’re not sure what’s going on. This isn’t an easy life. It’s pretty awesome he was one of the best and got the gold jacket. Definitely an inspiration.

  2. Pure class. They’re going to have to add on to the building in Canton to house all the Steeler HOF’rs.

  3. It wasn’t bad decisions on his part that put such a major obstacle in the way of his dream. It was his own body. Yet he didn’t wallow in his misfortune. Instead he worked hard and disciplined himself to make the most of his opportunities. Eventually fulfilling his dream of making the NFL. Many people in today’s society want to blame anything and any one for their misfortune. Then they expect society to make it all better for them. They need to learn from people like Alan Faneca and the millions of others who overcome significant obstacles. It is your life and you will have to work hard at it to succeed.

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